What Drives Women to Have Risky Home Abortions?

[Holy Hormones Honey! Dr. Jen Gunter has written an excellent and insightful blog post on the reasons why women perform home abortions – even in countries where it is free and legal. Why do women have to resort to such desperate measures instead of having the right to choose whether or not to have a baby – and the right to have safe and effective birth control – without being called ‘sluts’.]

When abortion is free and legal why does a woman do it at home and die?

Dr. Jen Gunter
May 23, 2012

Authorities in the United Kingdom have revealed that Catherine Furey, a mother of five, died from a home abortion. The reports are that she drank an “industrial strength” vinegar (vinegar is acetic acid). Her sister-in-law, who apparently handed her the vinegar and who, the Manchester Evening News reports has learning difficulties, was initially charged with manslaughter, but those charges have now been dropped.

Abortion is legal in the United Kingdom and a service provided by the National Health Service (NHS), so why would a woman who can get a free and safe abortion legally resort to these drastic and fatal measures? There are sadly too many reasons:

  • Shame. Many women are ashamed to find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. The effort to talk about it may seem Herculean. Given societal attitudes, this is all too common. Very few women speak up about their abortion experiences and so even though it is legal it has the air of something one doesn’t discuss in polite society. People talk about their migraines at cocktails parties. Ever hear anyone talk about their abortion?
  • Access issues. Just because abortion is free and legal doesn’t mean it is readily accessible. For example, in Canada where abortion is also free and legal there is no abortion provider in the Province of Prince Edward Island (which is an island). So, women have to find an out of province provider and make arrangements to go to the mainland. For some, that is too many steps or too much cost.
  • They are afraid. Afraid of their spouse, of their family, or perhaps of the man who raped them. Some are afraid of picketers. I have many, many women whose husbands monitor their movements and hide car keys, preventing them from going to doctor’s visits. Domestic violence also escalates in pregnancy.
  • Disagreement with her partner over whether this was a wanted pregnancy.
  • Not knowing it is free and legal. How is that possible you say? I have seen women who were told by their doctor that abortion was illegal. This was in Canada and it was both legal and free, just no local providers would do it. For many it took a while to get the right information (remember the shame? It makes it harder to ask around) and several weeks to save up enough money for a bus ticket and make their way to a big city.
  • Medical naiveté. She might think the at home abortion method she chose is safe and effect. Sixty percent of people believe the medical information they find on-line is as good as the information they get in a doctor’s office. Really. I see this everyday about medical conditions that way less urban mythology than abortion.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.