In the 1920s and 1930s, tens of thousands of women died each year, due to complications following illegal and self-induced abortions. Sadly, it looks like society is keen to turn back the hands of time on the progress women have achieved since then.
A shocking new report has revealed that around 100,000 to 240,000 women in Texas have tried to induce an abortion at home.
The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), run by the University of Texas, released the results of the ground-breaking study this week.
TxPEP exposed the prevalence of DIY abortions in the state, where legislators have dramatically limited women’s access to the procedure in recent years.
Since November 2013, when Texas passed a controversial HB2 law, over half of the state’s clinics have closed.
Researchers surveyed around 800 women, aged between 18-49, in 2014 and 2015.
Participants were asked whether they had ever attempted to terminate a pregnancy outside of a professional setting, or if a best friend had.
Nearly 2% said they had attempted to self-induce an abortion at home, while 4.1% said they think or knew that their best friend had.
The best friend question was asked because, given the sensitive nature of the survey, women might be more likely to discuss the subject when slightly distanced from it.
Methods used by women for self-inducing abortions including using home herbal remedies or, most commonly, the drug misoprostol, which can be obtained on the black market. Other shocking methods reported included getting punched in the stomach, using alcohol or hormonal pills.
Researchers applied the findings to the number of women at reproductive age in Texas. This revealed that between 100,000 and 240,000 women have attempted to self-induce an abortion (the lower figure representing women who had reported their own attempts, and the higher figure, those of their friends).
The survey revealed that self-induced abortions are most common among Latina women and those in poverty.
Unsurprisingly, researchers found that the rate of women attempting to give themselves abortions in Texas has been rising in the wake of legislative attempts to restrict access to the procedure. Many of the women who reported self-inducing said they would rather have been able to undergo the procedure at the hands of a professional, but felt that this was not possible.
The study was accompanied by interviews with 18 women who had tried to end their pregnancies at home. One 24-year-old woman said that after taking misoprostol she experienced “probably one of the worst pains I’ve ever gone through,” and another, aged 20, reported a “nauseating” feeling but that she “kept doing it anyway.”
Dr. Daniel Grossman, one of the study's co-authors and a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, says that:
“This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of colour and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk.
“As clinic-based care becomes harder to access in Texas, we can expect more women to feel that they have no other option and take matters into their own hands,” he says.
The HB2 law is currently being challenged in supreme court, Whole Woman’s Health v Cole.
Amy Hagstron Miller, CEO of independent abortion provider, Whole Woman’s Health, confirmed that Texas had seen a rise in self-induced abortions since the abortion restrictions.
“Abortion is legal in this country,” she says. “And so every woman deserves to have access to whatever method for terminating her pregnancy safely she might choose in her local community.”
“Nobody should be denied safe and compassionate care based on her zip code,” says Hagstrom Miller. “But that's exactly what's been happening.”