DIY Abortions Are No Longer a Thing of the Past -- Thanks, Lawmakers

hangerWith abortion rights under attack, it's important to consider one very real and dangerous consequence of closing clinics: a troubling rise in DIY abortions. Google searches for phrases like "how to self-abort" went up 40 percent in 2011 (when the current crackdown on abortions in this country began), and there were more than 700,000 Google searches for info on self-induced abortions in 2015 according to the New York Times.


Naturally, we have no way of knowing how many of these searches resulted in the actual performance of at-home abortions, but we can guess that many did. While women living in states with the fewest abortion clinics had 54 percent fewer legal abortions and more live births, there are countless "missing" pregnancies in these states indicating that women could very well be terminating their pregnancies without medical help.

Given how dangerous (sometimes even deadly) DIY abortions can be, this is alarming at best. It becomes even more alarming when one considers the harsh reality implied in several of the search terms included under the umbrella of "self-induced abortion," including "how to do a coat hanger abortion," "buy abortion pills online," and "how to have a miscarriage," as well as instructions on bleaching one's own uterus and how to end a pregnancy via a punch to the stomach.

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It sounds like a page ripped from pre Roe v. Wade history, and that's pretty scary; prior to that landmark ruling, as many as 5,000 American women died every year as a result of so-called "back-alley abortions." 

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the states with the most searches for DIY abortions are the states with the fewest abortion clinics. The highest rate of searches, for example, was in Mississippi, where there is currently one abortion clinic; eight of the 10 states with the highest search rates are considered "hostile or very hostile to abortion" by the Guttmacher Institute, while none of the 10 states with the lowest rates fall into either category.

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The horrifying lengths women are forced to go to when clinics close is something we rarely talk about, but this is exactly what made the fight for legal abortion such a critical one in the first place. Women have abortions because they feel they have no other choice, and the legality of abortion isn't going to change the fact that they feel they have no other choice -- it's just going to force them into risking their lives to do what needs to be done. And those lives matter -- can't we all agree on that much?


Image via jewell willett/Flickr

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