The GOP has waged a full-on war on women over the past several years, with each election cycle making their attacks more vicious than the last. In just the last five years, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) state laws have been responsible for the closing of 162 women’s health clinics in America, prohibiting abortions or making them too inaccessible through cost or difficulty. Because of the Republican party’s obsession with controlling women’s bodies, many women are taking matters into their own hands – with dire consequences – as a recent Glamour report outlines.
Glamour reports on the experiences of women like Renee, 17, who was so discouraged and isolated by rabid pro-lifers that she performed her own medical abortion. She’d gotten pregnant with college and medical school just around the corner, and knew that it just wasn’t the right time for her to have a child. She would have gone to a clinic, but was afraid of facing protesters and being shamed. Renee explained:
All that screaming, telling you, ‘You’re going to hell’—I couldn’t do all that.
Her solution was to acquire the drug misoprostol to induce the abortion on her own. She recalled, “I had severe cramps and was feeling sick. It was like a very, very bad period.”
Misoprostol is actually a legal drug when prescribed, and is used to induce abortion. In the process of a “medical” (non-surgical) abortion, misoprostol is used along with another drug called mifepristone (RU-486). Together, RU-486 is first used to make the embryonic tissue detach from the uterine lining, and misoprostol is later taken to bring on the contractions that will expel the tissue.
Because RU-486 is so restricted, most women who try to induce their own medical abortions take misoprostol by itself, however, this method is only 80% effective. If a pregnancy remains after misoprostol is taken, the baby could have birth defects.
Buying misoprostol pills can be extremely problematic – buying online can leave women open to scams or misinformation. In some unfortunate cases, the misoprostol pills women think they’re buying are actually fake, contaminated or have incorrect dosage information. But for some women, getting their hands on black market misoprostol isn’t an option and they will try other methods out of desperation. Some women have even turned to herbs, supplements – or worse – self-injury.
One woman, Rebecca Gomperts, MD, PhD, is trying to help those who have been impacted by the GOP’s regulations on abortion. She founded Women on Web, which is an organization that sends abortion drugs to women who live in areas where they don’t have access to a safe, legal abortion. Just last year, Gomperts said she received 600 emails from women looking for help. Here are just some of the emails she received from women:
I have considered suicide. If [my boyfriend] finds out about me being pregnant, God only knows what will happen. He is a violent, angry person, so I need some help.”
“I need the pills bc I…can’t travel that far. I live [in] Mississippi where I can’t find a doctor. Please help!”
And Gomperts’ overflowing inbox doesn’t even touch how much of an issue this is. Last year, there were over 700,000 internet searches on “how to self-abort.” Aside from the physical dangers, women who try to perform their own abortions are also at risk of being arrested, as the GOP has worked tirelessly to criminalize abortion.
The fact that women are being forced to go to such dangerous measures when we have the ability to perform completely safe, legal, and morally sound procedures is disgusting. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the last of the Republican party’s attack on women’s bodies. The GOP currently has a presumptive nominee (Donald Trump) who once said that women (and doctors) “should be punished” for abortions.
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