DIY and the right to choose

January 29, 2007 at 12:57 am | Posted in body, choice | 3 Comments

All right, its abortion discusssion week here at One Woman Army (judging from the topics of the past week).

As I mentioned previously, in Canada abortion is decriminalized – not legal – decriminalized. I can’t help but wonder what this would mean in the case of Amber Abreu in Lawrence, Massechussetts who is now possibly facing charges of manslaughter for a DIY abortion.

Are women’s rights under attack still – 34 years after Roe vs. Wade? Just look at Amber’s case:

“Prosecutors in Lawrence, Massachusetts could charge this 18-year-old woman, Amber Abreu, with manslaughter because she took an ulcer medication containing Misoprostol, a drug that is legal in the U.S., in an attempt to terminate a pregnancy.    She has already been charged with ”procuring an improper miscarriage” and faces a possible seven years in state prison.  She is being held on $15,000 bail.   Even though abortion is legal in Massachusetts until the 24th week of pregnancy, she could face manslaughter charges depending on the results of the autopsy.   

Scared that she was pregnant, not sure, but believing she had felt movement in her abdomen, she obtained the ulcer medication from a friend.  She took three doses, began to develop stomach cramps and went to the hospital, where she gave birth to a 1-1/4 pound  girl estimated to be at 23-25 weeks gestation who survived for four days.   While in the hospital, the baby’s urine was tested and the drug was discovered.  “Social workers” (snort) alerted police when Abreu checked herself out of the hospital.” – from Women’s Space/The Margins

Wow, talk about a violation of women’s rights. The sneakiness of the “social workers” and physicians to test the baby’s urine to use against this poor girl.

What I want to know is, why is it illegal or criminal to have a diy abortion not in the santions of a legal abortion clinic? For thousands and thousands of years women have been self-administering abortions or treating their sisters with abortions thanks to abortifacients and herbal remedies. This is absolutely nothing new at all, and that it should now be made out to be criminal and “homicidal” is absurd. This is the result of a medicalized society that obeys the laws of non-feminist medicine.

What would this mean in Canada, however, where there are no laws regarding abortion? Would anything even be done? I can’t help but wonder, and I have no answers. What do you think? Discuss in comments.

For those wanting to explore more:

Bitch PhD has a fabulous post that outlines various links on diy abortions and abortifacients, as well as histories of illegal abortions.




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  1. To me, this story is first and foremost an indictment of the USian health care system. Abreu couldn’t pay for an abortion herself, and didn’t want to tell her parents she needed another one. Had there been universal medicare, I doubt she’d have needed to pay anything.

  2. THanks Kuri, and while I suspect that’s partially as true – as we have universal medicare in Canada – it also doesn’t necessarily pay for abortions in all Canadian provinces and territories. Prince Edward Island is currently without an abortion clinic and New Brunswick will only pay for abortions from in-province citizens now, and not at the single licensed abortion clinic in the province. In Newfoundland and Labrador, abortions are covered, but hundreds of women travel to St. John’s every year from across the province because they cannot have one done in their own small rural community. So what happens to the women who cannot afford to travel, who have nowhere to go in their own community, who cannot take time out of work or school?

  3. I don’t understand the details of this case, nor why she would be charged with manslaughter in a state where abortion is legal. Because she attempted to abort it herself in a nonprescribed way? Seems bizarre.

    And, yes, women’s right to abortion has been under attack since Roe came down (and before). Decriminalization doesn’t solve the issue in my opinion b/c, as you point out, it does not enable women who want to and need to exercize their right to an abortion; it just allows them to have an abortion if they can summon up the money for one. Many women, particularly young girls and poor women (who can’t take a day off to travel out of state for an abortion) don’t have meaningful access to the right to choose.

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