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Sometimes Abortion Still Is a Crime


For the second time in recent months, a young woman is being charged with the crime of self-induced abortion, or attempt thereof.

Via Shakesville, here’s the most recent story:

West Monroe woman is accused of trying to kill her fetus, Oswego County sheriff’s reports said.

The 24-year-old woman, who lives on county Route 11, took several over-the-counter and prescription medications last week in an attempt to abort her 13-week-old fetus, Sheriff Reuel Todd said Tuesday.

“We don’t know exactly why she did it, other than that she wanted to terminate the pregnancy,” Todd said.
Police records show that the woman, Katrina L. Pierce, reported that she was a victim of domestic violence as recently as last month.

A week and a half after that incident, on April 4, someone called the Oswego County 911 Center after Pierce took the drugs, officials said.

West Monroe volunteer firefighters helped the woman before an ambulance took her to a Syracuse hospital, Todd said.

News like this is both sad an enraging. It’s also a clear example of the failure of current abortion policy in most states, which is to just make it as tough as possible for women to get abortions and hope that the procedure just goes away. It won’t. But between 24- or 48-hour waiting periods (so-called “informed consent” laws), restrictions on who may perform abortions and where, and the general lack of access to abortion providers (87% of U.S. counties do not have an abortion provider), it’s getting tougher and tougher for women to obtain abortions legally and early in their pregnancies. The Hyde Amendment, of course, makes all of this worse by banning the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortions. Some states, including New York, have chosen to provide public funding for abortion out of state coffers, but these states are few and far between.

It’s easy to wonder why this woman didn’t seek out NY’s public funding, or why she waited until the 13th week in her pregnancy (making it even more difficult to find a provider, since many places only perform abortions up to 12 weeks). Yet instead of helping figure out what roadblocks might have existed in her path to procuring an abortion, and particularly the influence of domestic violence in this situation, the state throws her in jail and tells her is a criminal.

Sure, abortion is not a crime anymore in the U.S., but it’s legality is strictly limited to very specific circumstances. Circumstances that make legal abortion unattainable for many women.

Lest we think that illegal abortions have gone by the wayside; they haven’t. Between the advent of the internet and information about the side effects of various drugs and the ever-growing obstacles in the way of legal abortion, back alley abortions haven’t disappeared, they just evolved into procedures performed on one’s self. They’ve gone from the proverbial alley to the bedroom. They’ve taken on a more private and medicalized form.

(cross-posted at A Bird and a Bottle)

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