Desperate times

Texas women conduct DIY abortions as clinics close

Protesters carry signs during an abortion rights march that originated at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, July 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Access to reproductive care in the state of Texas has seen major restrictions since 2013 when state law changed to ban abortion after 20 weeks, mandating that doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility and asking abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. There weren’t enough nearby hospitals in question and making the necessary renovations proved too expensive for many abortion clinics, causing unprecedented closures across the 269,000-square-mile state. In 2012, Texas had 41 abortion clinics (which, of course, also provided other health services for women and men). Today, there are only 17, and “the average Texas county is now 111 miles from the nearest clinic, up 72 miles from 2012.” If Supreme Court holds up the legality of these restriction in its Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole ruling scheduled for June, an additional seven clinics will close. So, what will the women of Texas do?

According to dual surveys at the University of Texas, between 100,000 and 240,000 women in the state between the ages of 18 and 49 have tried to end a pregnancy on their own, and self-induced abortion was higher among women with less access to reproductive services. “Given that the populations we found to be most familiar with abortion self-induction are among those that have been most directly affected by the closure of abortion clinics in the state,” they write, “we suspect that abortion self-induction will increase as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access,” researchers wrote.

State abortions have decreased 13 percent since the 2013 law was signed into effect by Governor Rick Perry, but the study authors suggest that Texas women either traveled out of state, continued the pregnancy, or induced an abortion using the drug Misoprostol (known by the brand name Cytotec) or through “herbs or homeopathic remedies, getting hit or punched in the abdomen, using alcohol or illicit drugs, or taking hormonal pills.”

One 24-year-old woman interviewed by the researchers expressed an understandable fear of conducting a DIY abortion: “…though we have all of the information as to how much bleeding is too much bleeding, there’s always that slight uncertainty of like I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

According to the World Health Organization, 47,000 women around the world die each year due to complications from unsafe abortions. Prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that maintained abortion’s legality in the United States, at least 5,000 American women died from illegal abortions each year.

Read more at The Atlantic.

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