In the past, anti-choice activists were clear with their message: abortion is murder and must be made illegal, full stop. When this method proved to be a failure, they started coming up with new methods that they are using to ban abortion piece by piece.
One such method is to claim that abortion is dangerous to a woman physically or mentally, and therefore there need to be regulations put on it. These regulations include waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, wider clinic hallways, forcing doctors to have privileges at a nearby hospital (even if they’re completely trained and capable of doing their job without said privileges) and more. Anti-choicers push these regulations forward in the name of women’s health and safety.
But the truth is, these regulations make abortion MORE dangerous. These regulations hurt women because they push women towards do-it-yourself abortions, online pills and over the border pharmacists. A recent New York Times piece stated that women are leaving the United States to buy pills in Mexico that can cause abortions (usually within the first 9 weeks of pregnancy). These pills are sold by unlicensed, untrained pharmacy workers who cannot provide the proper instructions on how to take the pills. As the article says,
“Like many Progreso pharmacy workers, Mr. Acosta does not hold a pharmacy degree or a license but is allowed under Mexican law to dispense Cytotec [a pill that can induce an abortion]. Asked about the proper dosage, he reluctantly suggested that patients take one pill every two hours — 18 tablets in all.
According to the World Health Organization, the recommended dosage of misoprostol, if used alone for an abortion, should be four tablets (800 micrograms) every three hours for a total of three doses, or 12 tablets.”
This lack of information about how to use the pills can lead to dangerous situations (indeed, ANY drug taken in a way that isn’t recommended can lead to adverse effects, not just abortion-related drugs). Some women take too few, and fail to abort the pregnancy. Some women take too many pills, which leads to excessive bleeding and trips to the emergency room. Either way, it’s not a good situation for the women involved. But they choose it. Why? One woman in the article stated she chose to self-administer the pills because she was trying to avoid the invasive and expensive regulations anti-choicers put on to abortion in the USA.
Now, we must clarify one thing. It is not the abortion pill that is dangerous; the pill, if used correctly, is completely safe. The danger and risk is associated with having a pharmacist unable to instruct women in how to take these pills properly. Anti-choicers hope that if no one knows how to perform an abortion, or how many pills to take, women will stop aborting. But this is not true–women continue to obtain abortions even in countries where it is illegal or access is restricted.
There are some pro-choice organizations that are out there working to combat the lack of information on the abortion pill. One such group is Women on Waves, which travels to countries where abortion is illegal and provides information and access to safe abortion methods. Women on Waves believes that women are capable of self-administering their own abortion using misoprostal and mifepristone, when they are educated in the proper usage. Any woman with internet access can actually go to the Women on Waves website and learn the proper method to take the pills.
When faced with the idea that women will seek “back-alley” or “DIY” abortions when legal abortion is too difficult to access, anti-choicers have two common responses: they either refuse to believe this will happen, or they believe it and do not care. While I have little hope for militant antis who blame women for injuries related to self-induced abortions, I am hopeful that hearing that women resort to DIY abortions might change the views of the antis who refused to believe this would happen. Perhaps when faced with this reality, they will see that women need abortion, and information about abortion, to be legal, safe, and accessible.