Friday, August 22, 2008

On Underground Abortions, Anti-Choice & Pro-Life

ABC News has an article up about the fact that, surprise!, women are still having "underground" abortions. To summarize, there is a lot of information out there on the internet that lets you know what combination of drugs and such will induce a miscarriage. (My senior thesis was actually on the past, present and future of abortion, so I can add that there are several books that also have this info.) It seems that women are accessing and using this information in growing numbers. Now researchers want to know why.

I understand the need for actual statistics, but I can venture a few guesses as to what they will find:

1) Access to abortion is becoming quite the tricky issue. There are partial-birth abortion bans (FYI, this is a phrase anti-choicers contrived to fuel their own claims), parental consent/notification laws, public funding requirements, etc.

2) Abortion laws and regulations vary from state to state. Here is a breakdown of state differences from the Guttmacher Institute.

3) There is a general distrust of doctors in this country. Am I the only one who finds that I need to tell the doctor what might be wrong with me rather than the other way around?
EDIT: In getting caught up in my schpiel, I forgot to urge people that they should not stop seeing their doctors! GO TO YOUR DOCTORS! Yes, our health care system is not perfect, but doctors are trained and fully capable of keeping us safe in situations like these.

4) (Related to #3) Our health care system needs an upgrade. Stat. Abortions are expensive and many lack the resources to get abortion. Combine that with the fact that doctors can refuse to give you an abortion, and you've got a whole lot of obstacles hidden in the fine print.

5) There is serious shame and blame attached to abortion. This increases when dealing with people who have religious families and people from other cultures. Some women would rather see the problem go away quickly and play the denial game afterwards.

6) Access to the correct information is sometimes tricky. With all of these rules and obstacles, there is plenty of room for confusion. The article mentions a Mexican woman who just did not have all of the facts straight:
"She knew that abortion was legal in the U.S.," Grossman said, "but she thought that is was only for people who are legal residents."

I think we need to attack these problems from both sides. Not only should we advocate for better policies and clearer information from our government, but we should also rely on grassroots efforts to keep others informed of what the law says, what the alternatives are, and how to make sure that women are safe at all times.

And can we please stop calling the anti-choicers, "pro-life"? I am pro-choice. I am also pro-life. In fact, I don't know of ANY pro-choicers who are not also pro-life. I recently read that they're sometimes called pro-birth. I suppose this is also accurate, but since this particular group of people is usually the one against birth control and adequate sex education, I think anti-choice is more accurate. Erica has a post up over at the Feministing Community site about reclaiming the term pro-life. I completely agree with her. We need to start now.

Some great resources: NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Abortion Access Project, and National Abortion Federation.

(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge.)


Habladora said...

Damn, Sally - really interesting post on a really important issue. Thanks for covering this.

I'm curious to why there is a distrust of medicine in this country. Even asking the question makes me nervous though, since I do not want to promote on the blog the idea that doctors are the enemy. If you're sick, people, go get help from a medical professional. No woo.

Still, while I acknowledge that there is a weird mistrust of doctors, I don't think that ranks up there with reasons people are trying to induce miscarriage rather than going to get safer help. If women can afford and have access to safe medical help, they use it. The problem, I believe, is that the cost can be expensive, and we're fighting to limit access.

frau sally benz said...

I meant to make clear in my post that people should GO TO THEIR DOCTORS! (I got a bit wrapped up in my schpiel, sorry.) Doctors are definitely not the enemy, as they are the ones trained to treat us and give us the care we need.

I remember when researching for my senior thesis, the issue of trusting doctors and the medical field in general came up a lot. I'll have to go through all my stuff to find the stats, perhaps somebody else can help me out here? I know the WSJ had a study or poll, but there were others too. My resources at the time were from the 1970s up to 2005 or so.

frau sally benz said...

In fact, I shall update my posts to add that people should GO TO THEIR DOCTORS!

Habladora said...

Your post is awesome... this question has just been on my brain recently ever since I reread my own post of two days ago and thought "huh. That sounds a little like I'm promoting doctor-fear." I just got finished putting a 'go to your doctors' note on the top of that one.

Your post, though, is a really good discussion of a scary issue that I think many people don't understand. I've know people (a very young couple) for whom abortion wasn't an option, based on its expense. Before that, I'd assumed that legal difficulties were the only hurtle anyone needing an abortion might face.

Ivyfree said...

I refer to them as the "right to lie" people, considering their standards of honesty.

Anonymous said...

This may sound paranoid, but you left off the very scary proposition that your information might not be all that secure. Sure, today the government can't demand that your doctor turn over info on who had an abortion; tomorrow, who knows.

Ashley said...

habladora: I don't trust doctors/medicine because they've screwed me over time and time again.

I've spent 2 years trying to see why I'm constantly fatigued, gaining weight, and miscarrying. It took 2 years, 42 tests, and 4 doctors to get a diagnosis. The first 2 doctors said "I don't know, wait for it to go away."

Actually, more often than not, that's the response I get. Sometimes legitimately (laryngitis), sometimes not (above issue, severe rash).

Then there's the fact that I literally get no help whatsoever if I say "I'm feeling this that and the other thing." It has to be "I think I have x." 9 times out of 10, I'm right.

In my experience, doctors are more often than not total idiots. Even after I got my diagnosis (PCOS, for what its worth), I've had doctors tell me patently wrong things about it. I've had nurses lie to me about condom usage.

And so the list goes on.

In fact, I hate doctors so much that my chart at my OB (who rocks, by the way) says as much, and I have a documented case of "white coat hypertension; despite being fat, I have low blood pressure, usually around 90/60, but once as bad as 104/44) unless I'm at the doctor, at which point it's borderline high (130/85)

In fact, my blog,, has a few posts about my hatred of the medical profession.

VJ said...

I remember reading somewhere legitimate (can't for the life of me remember where) a couple years ago that the number of doctors that are being trained to perform abortions is decreasing, which is an interesting aspect of the whole debate, at least to me.

frau sally benz said...

I would say that there is a percentage of doctors (I wouldn't even begin to know how many) that just don't care enough.

Actually, the whole style of Western medicine has developed into a very impersonal experience. You are forced to disconnect from your own body and put all of your trust in another person. In that way, it isn't even really the doctor's fault b/c they don't have any way of knowing how something actually makes us feel.

Hmm... I have to think a lot about this.

An vj, I think I remember reading that too. And that they are trained more on performing c-sections than vaginal births. Anybody out there want to get extra credit for looking into these things?!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

I'll tell you my problem with the medical establishment. I don't trust doctors. I find them to be underinformed, undereducated, and way too willing to talk out of their asses. If they don't know something, they should bloody tell me that and look it up!

I cannot stand doctors. I'm pregnant and dealing with them again, way too much. Stuff I could do myself, they do for me (like weighing me - could I not hop on the scale and tell them how much I weigh? No, apparently not. I need a "professional" to read the numbers for me)

Doctors don't want to work with me. They want me to trust them. Bah. I have no reason to trust them. None.