Commentary

Disturbing but unsurprising: Women in anti-choice states increasingly looking to DIY abortions

There was a terrifically disturbing but completely unsurprising story in the New York Times over the weekend about the apparent rise of self-induced abortions in states that have moved to restrict reproductive freedom in recent years. This is from Tara Culp-Ressler’s summary  at Think Progress:

The demand for information about how to self-induce an abortion “has risen to a disturbing level,” according to a New York Times analysis that examined more than 700,000 Google searches across the country in 2015.

New York Times contributor Seth Stephens-Davidowitz crunched the numbers and found a correlation between online searches related to illegal pregnancy terminations — including search terms like “home abortion methods,” “buy abortion pills online,” “free abortion pills,” and “how to do a coat hanger abortion” — and states with harsh abortion restrictions.

When tracking these abortion-related search terms between 2005 and 2015, Stephens-Davidowitz noticed a significant increase in search traffic in 2011 — the same year that marked a sharp uptick in anti-abortion legislation on the state level. And in the swaths of the South and the Midwest where reproductive health clinics are closing at a rapid pace, Stephens-Davidowitz observed a higher rate of interest in self-induced abortion.

The findings may offer a window into the desperate measures that some women consider when legal abortion options are out of reach to them.

Stephens-Davidowitz writes that, although his data is preliminary, these Google searches “show a hidden demand for self-induced abortion reminiscent of the era before Roe v. Wade.”

It’s difficult to obtain accurate information about self-induced abortion in the United States, though some researchers have recently tried to start tracking it in states that are particularly hostile to reproductive health. One study examining Texas, where a stringent law that’s forced dozens of clinics to close is currently before the Supreme Court, estimated that at least 100,000 women there have attempted to induce their own abortion.

On an anecdotal level, several reporters have documented an increasing number of Texas women who are crossing the border to obtain abortion-inducing drugs in Mexico.

Reproductive rights proponents point to this emerging evidence to argue that laws like Texas’ are actively harming women’s health — which directly contradicts the stated purpose of the policy, whose supporters say is necessary to safeguard patients.

“Many women now face insurmountable barriers to access basic health care, like waiting weeks for an abortion, having to drive hundreds of miles to access care, and sometimes resorting to inducing their own abortion without medical supervision,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement in response to Stephens-Davidowitz’s findings. “The evidence is loud and clear: these restrictions hurt women.”

Click here to see the maps. In North Carolina, where state leaders have been moving to restrict abortion access, searches for “self-induced abortions” are more than 10% above the national average.

Commentary

Pro-choice supporters energized despite divided court on abortion case

On the blistery cold morning of March 2, hundreds gathered at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in advance of oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most significant reproductive rights case in recent history. The crowd sprawled out across the sidewalk and into the street. A man held a baby in one arm and a “Protect Abortion Access” sign in the other. Others held homemade signs, which read “Not Going Back.” An anti-choice crowd had also gathered, all clad in blue, but their presence was drowned out by the sea of purple pro-choice supporters.

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Inside the building, the walls vibrated with the sound of the crowd outside chanting “Stop the Sham!” The mood inside the courtroom was more somber as attendees contemplated the gravity of what was at stake in this case. The Justices would not only be determining the constitutionality of HB2, a law passed in Texas that requires clinics to convert into ambulatory care centers, and requires doctors who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, but also whether states can continue to put barriers in place to prevent women from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion. As U.S. Solicitor General Verilli stated at the end of his oral arguments, if the court finds that HB2 should be upheld, what they will really be saying is “that this right exists only in theory and not in fact, going forward.”

At exactly 10am, the Justices entered the courtroom armed with questions for both sides. The seat formerly occupied by Justice Scalia sat noticeably empty and covered in black cloth. Within minutes, it was clear that this was going to be a battle for Justice Kennedy’s vote. Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayer and Kagan pulled no punches in calling out the unfairness in applying certain rules to abortions that aren’t applied to more dangerous procedures like liposuctions and colonoscopies. Justice Breyer further pointed out the hypocrisy in the State’s argument by asking if the State was truly passing these abortion restrictions for health reasons, weren’t they worried that the result of the restrictions was to shut down clinics and cause later-term and more self-induced abortions? Breyer continued, “[s]o if the concern is this tiny risk of dying through complication in a clinic, is this a remedy that will in fact achieve the legislature’s health-saving purpose?”

The arguments in favor of Whole Woman’s Health seemed persuasive at the time but it will be a few months before the Justices release their decision. Walking back down the steps of the Supreme Court and seeing the even larger and more energized crowd of supporters rallying in the cold weather, one thing was clear — no matter what the Justices decide, the right to abortion will not be allowed to be easily taken away.

Chavi Koneru is Policy Analyst for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

Commentary

New legislation would all but end access to safe, legal abortions in North Carolina

Abortion protestWomen’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies took another blow yesterday and this time the strike was aimed at doctors too.

While proponents of women’s rights were still reeling from the anti-abortion Senate bill filed last week, HB 465 was introduced, yesterday, containing the most restrictive proposed abortion restrictions North Carolina has seen in a long time.

As is typical with anti-abortion bills, the new laws would make it harder for women, who have made a choice about their own body, by making them wait 72 hours, instead of the current 24 hour period, between asking for an abortion and being legally permitted to get one.

According to NARAL Pro-Choice NC:

[M]andatory delay laws such as these would endanger women’s health and “create additional burdens for North Carolina women, especially women in rural areas who often have to travel for many hours to reach a health-care provider, and for women who do not have the resources to take extra time off work or to pay for child-care.”

The real dagger in the bill, however, is how it would dictate doctor’s rights to make decisions based on his or her own ethics and education. Almost every provision of the bill would narrow the pool of doctors available to perform abortions, until North Carolina is left with zero doctors able to perform safe abortions—which is obviously the intent of the bill’s sponsors.

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Commentary

Seats still available for next week’s breakfast on women’s rights – RSVP today

Judy WaxmanPlease join us for a very special Crucial Conversation — Breakfast with Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center

Click here to register

Why are Americans still fighting for basic freedoms like access to birth control? What is the latest on the effort to secure full implementation of the Affordable Care Act? How can average North Carolinians help turn the tide so that we’re moving forward instead of just barely hanging on to previous victories in these and related areas?

Please join us at next Tuesday as we tackle these topics with one of America’s leading advocates for women’s health, Judy Waxman.

Cosponsored by: North Carolina Women United, the North Carolina National Organization for Women and Women AdvaNCe.

When: Tuesday, October 21, at 8:15 a.m. — Breakfast will be available at 8:00 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $5, admission includes light breakfast.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Breakfast speaker will address current legal issues impacting women

The debate over women’s rights has been front and center in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race for months now — often with a lot more heat than light on the subject. I f you’d like to get up to speed on what’s really at issue in Washington — both in our high courts and in the halls of Congress, you won’t want to miss the next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation: Breakfast with Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center

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Judy Waxman is the Vice President of Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center, where she leads the center’s team of advocates, who are at the forefront of major legal, public policy and educational initiatives to protect and advance women’s health and reproductive rights. Prior to joining the center, Ms. Waxman served as Deputy Executive Director at Families USA for over a decade.

Especially in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s recent and now infamous ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear from one of the nation’s leading experts in this critically important and fast-evolving field.

Cosponsored by: North Carolina Women United, the North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for Women and Women AdvaNCe.

When: Tuesday, October 21, at 8:15 a.m. — Breakfast will be available at 8:00 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $5, admission includes light breakfast.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com