The Criminalization of Women Controlling the Size of Their Families

A woman in Idaho is facing a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison for an ‘unlawful abortion’. The mother of three believed she was 14 weeks along (examination of the fetus remains found that it was 20-25 weeks) and did not have the resources to visit a doctor for an actual medical abortion. Feeling it was her last option, her sister ordered medication online to induce a miscarriage. An anti-choice advocate found out about the situation and called the police on the woman.

This is one of the first more published examples of how 20 week bans on abortion will begin making women, many of whom are already mothers, into criminals. The typical centrist seems to see criminalizing abortion after 20 weeks as something that makes sense; we have all heard the arguments, “oh, well any woman would have to know by 20 weeks she was pregnant” or “it is her fault for waiting so long”. Obviously those statements do not hold up given the attempted cuts to planned parenthood, the mandatory counseling and waiting periods, and the lack of abortion providers in rural areas. (Not to mention women with very wanted pregnancies who find out about serious, un-survivable genetic abnormalities or diseases after 20 weeks). Some women may very well know how far along they are, but that does not change the amount of money they have in the bank, it does not add abortion coverage to their insurance plans, and it does not insert an abortion clinic within 50 miles of their house.

There appears to be a passivity that Roe versus Wade is safe and abortions are accessible for anyone who wants one. Hopefully this story wakes people up; Roe v. Wade is being chipped away as we ‘speak’. This woman in Idaho was so desperate to control the size of her family that she had to take medication from who-knows-where – these are not the actions of someone who was lazy or too busy to find out she was pregnant earlier. These are actions of a distressed woman who fiercely wanted an abortion but found it was too expensive and inaccessible.

One of the myths anti-choice supporters tend to pledge is that none of the amendments or laws restricting abortion will penalize women. They focus conversations on the abortion providers, the doctors, as the only ones who will be at the receiving end of the oppressive legislation. This is a lie and this mother’s story from Idaho is only the beginning; brace yourself for many more accounts like this.

There is no doubt that 20 week bans on abortion will continue to criminalize more women and push safe abortions further out of reach. It is time to make our progressive voices louder than those who oppose women and mothers, we cannot afford to be quiet anymore.

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 7, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    We had a similar issue in Australia, in Queensland, recently when a nineteeen year old woman had abortion drugs imported. Her and her partner were charged under the Crimes Act. Luckily they were found not guilty. I think it was horrific, but interesting, because a lot of people here talk about how abortion is ‘legal’ and so people are over reacting when they say we need to keep campaigning for it to be legalised. Cases like this one just show how much it isn’t legal, at least in Queensland and NSW and how much of a fight there is still left.

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/cairns-couple-tegan-leach-and-sergie-brennan-not-guilty-in-abortion-case/story-e6frf7l6-1225938653501

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