A January 9th article on JewishCurrents.org, a “magazine committed to the rich tradition of thought, activism, and culture of the Jewish left” breezily instructs readers on “self-managed abortions,” a.k.a. procuring your own pills and undergoing an abortion unsupervised at your own home. The article starts out with a disclaimer of sorts, in which the author admits she has no legal or medical background — and this is very clear, especially given that the method the author advocates is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for abortion. The author’s bio reads, “currently working for climate justice in New York. She has also run electoral campaigns and once wrote a sex ed advice column for teens.”
What’s particularly striking about this article isn’t just the subject matter, but the tone. Setting aside the questionable legality of attempting an at-home abortion, the casual tone the author uses belies the actual devastatingly bloody, messy, terrifying experience of undergoing a chemical abortion (abortion pill). In fact, a cartoon featured on the site shows a woman who has just taken the abortion pill sitting peacefully on the sofa reading, with ginger ale and chips nearby. This is in no way the reality experienced by many women who have described it as a horrifying, scary, excruciating process.
What’s also disturbing is that while taking Misoprostol only for an abortion isn’t FDA approved, the author says she obtained this information from groups like Women on Web and others, which are illegally distributing abortion drugs worldwide. Some have even been warned by the FDA to cease and desist in their activities. And yet, this author points to these organizations as the experts in this arena.
Abortion advocates used to claim that doctors were necessary for the safety of women when it comes to abortion; now, it appears they have abandoned all pretense and push for no medical oversight whatsoever, putting women’s lives at risk.
The author describes who shouldn’t attempt an at-home abortion, but fails to include the safety tidbit that one of the reasons women are required to go to abortion facilities to get the pills is so that an ultrasound can be performed. An ultrasound dates the pregnancy (age of the preborn baby), which is important since abortion by medication is only done up until 10 weeks since the woman’s last menstrual period started, and also verifies that the pregnancy is not ectopic. An ectopic pregnancy can threaten the mother’s life.
The article next gets down to the nitty-gritty of what drugs are needed, and how much. To her credit, the author acknowledges that chemical abortions (abortion pill) in a clinic setting typically include two pills — one to kill the baby via cutting off its nutrient supply (Mifepristone) and one to cause uterine contractions to expel its dead body (Misoprostol). “Self-managed abortions,” on the other hand, only include Misoprostol, because Mifepristone is virtually impossible to come by without a prescription. Still, the article cheerily notes that 85% of women will abort successfully with just the Misoprostol, a positive reframing of the fact that more than 1 in 10 women will experience a continued pregnancy with this method.
Shockingly, women seeking an at-home abortion are recommended to obtain Misoprostol in one of three deceptive ways: a) by lying to a pharmacist about why the drug is needed, b) by getting pills from a veterinarian’s office, since it is sometimes prescribed to animals, or c) by purchasing pills from a questionable online pharmacy without a prescription. The author notes, “A 2017 study of abortion pills bought on the internet found that the pills from all 18 sites studied contained the labeled active ingredients at more or less the written dose.” (emphasis added) This should give women pause.
The author encourages women to stay within an hour of the hospital after they take the pills, “just in case” the common side effects of nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bleeding, dizziness, headache, fever, and chills become unbearable. What’s more, the article recommends, “Just like building IKEA furniture, managing your abortion is easier and safer with a friend.”
As made horrifically clear by multiple scenes in the 2019 film “Unplanned,” as well as women’s real-life testimonials posted elsewhere, there is nothing of glorious autonomy in taking the abortion pill. The film portrayed its lead character’s experience as she had portrayed in years before in writing: doubled over in pain, surrounded by blood in her shower, looking like something akin to a scene from a horror movie. The article makes no mention of what happens to a woman’s psyche when her own home, a place that’s meant to be a sanctuary, becomes a place of death. There’s no warning that the woman may even see her own child’s dead body pass out of her body into the toilet.
Texas OBGYN Dr. Ingrid Skop told Live Action News this article is “irresponsible,” saying the suggestions made “that women seek pills online or illegally ignore the risk this action may pose to women.” She adds:
Underestimating gestational age (which happens frequently) results in far higher rates of failure, and failing to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy may result in tubal rupture and catastrophic hemorrhage, possibly leading to death…. Circumventing the medical system will also allow these medications to fall into the hands of people other than the woman who may desire an end to her pregnancy, such as incestuous abusers, sex traffickers and abusive boyfriends.
One in 20 women have a failed medical abortion requiring surgery with mifepristone/misoprostol, and that number rises to one in five with misoprostol alone. Women who are already anemic or who live remote from emergency medical services may be at risk for serious complications from blood loss…. Only someone who values unlimited abortion over the health of women would make such cavalier suggestions as this article recommends.
While the article appears frank, straightforward, and matter-of-fact in tone, these stomach-churning details are completely omitted. At-home abortions have been touted as a safe, private way to undergo an abortion, but characterizing them that way requires glossing over or completely ignoring all sorts of unpleasant facts. Women deserve better. Women deserve the truth.
Editor’s Note, 1/17/20: Remarks from Dr. Ingrid Skop have been added to this post.
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