An article in the NYTimes has my brain running in circles today. The gist is that a number of women, particularly illegal immigrants in the USA, and women in the Dominican and other Latin American countries are taking an ulcer medication to induce abortions, without having to go to doctors for expensive procedures.
My first thought is EW! I find abortion utterly repulsive. But I'll get past that for a second here. :)
It is articles like this one that cement for me the absolute need for government funded abortions via the normal procedure and via medications like RU486. There are a number of reasons.
1) Taking medications on one's own to induce an abortion is dangerous, and will inevitably lead to maternal death. So don't do it, right? Well, here's the thing, women always have and always will induce abortions. Criminalizing the procedure will drive it further underground, making it unsafer, and further drive up maternal death rates. It will NOT lower the rate of abortion.
2) The obstetrician Westhoff says that this happens "...partly because of a lack of insurance but mostly because of a lack of trust in the health care system." I understand both of these reasons, intimately. Lack of insurance, inasmuch as when I was sick and desperately needed a chiropractor and physiotherapy, I couldn't afford it. I tried everything else I could think of for pain relief. Clearly, these women are doing the same. Abortion must be freely accessible in order to be safe.
And lack of trust in the health care system, well, this is completely understandable. The vast majority of doctors are men. Many pregnant women looking for abortions have absolutely no reason to trust men. The health care system needs a giant overhaul - and the way women are treated by doctors (of both genders) needs to be near the top of the list.
3) "Gabriela Flores, pleaded guilty to illegally performing an abortion and was sentenced to 90 days in jail for taking misoprostol while four months pregnant in 2004". This just breaks my heart. Here's a woman who was clearly desperate to end her pregnancy. For whatever reason (and she was a Mexican migrant worker, so I'm guessing it was money or fear of deportation or both), she couldn't get an abortion from the medical establishment, and took the steps to do it herself. And this landed her in jail. No, that is just not okay. She had the legal right to an abortion, but because she did it without the government's say-so, she had to go to jail. This just seriously smacks of patriarchy.
4) Another reason cited for a do-it-yourself abortion: "concern about clinic protesters". Yes, these people have the absolute right to try to stop what they view as murder, however, it makes me sick on so many levels. First, and probably foremost, is that I don't believe for a second that any of those fuckers care in the least bit about the babies they're saving. If they did, they'd also fight to see those babies get good health care, good treatment through their lives. This is about controlling women. Nothing more. Second, there's the hypocrisy of it. These people are often Christians, people claiming to follow the teachings of Christ, and what are they doing? Yelling at, intimidating and shaming people they consider sinners. I find that so incredibly frustrating. Do they really think Jesus, the man who saved a woman from a legal stoning, for a sex crime, by asking those who were about to kill her who among them was without sin. How can these protesters call themselves Christian, and miss such a vital message? How? It truly boggles the mind.
5) Finally, the reason I think that drugs such as RU486 should be legal and easily available is that in many communities, there is a big stigma involved in going to an abortion clinic. Scared women won't go to them, even if they are free and accessible if there's a chance that their friends, neighbours and family might see them there. Going to a doctor or even a pharmacist and getting the drugs is simply a much better option. However, I do think they need to be warned about possible side effects, how to properly take the drug, and what kinds of things should send them to an ER. You know, just like any other drug! (Not that we get that kind of quality service from most pharmacists).
So, even though I honestly can't stand the idea that women get abortions, ending a life, I really think it's in the best interest of all of society that we keep it legal, keep it safe, and keep it accessible. And in the meantime, let's all try to minimize the situations that lead to this kind of desperation, and have a little compassion for those who find themselves in the situation where they need to have abortions.