Guest Commentary

Written by admin   // June 16, 2011   // 0 Comments

Women Risk Death Just Exercising Their Rights

by Tonyaa Weathersbee,

By now, the Kermit Gosnell wannabes are probably lining up. And why not?

All they need to do is take their folding tables and knives to any of the states where anti-abortion lawmakers have made it so tough for women to get one that they are now risking death or jail to end their pregnancies.

Gosnell is the uncertified Philadelphia OBGYN who set up shop in an area where he found a steady stream of desperate black, Hispanic, and immigrant women seeking abortions. According to news reports, his clinic hadn’t been inspected for nearly 18 years.

So while no one was looking, Gosnell apparently gave his poor, largely uneducated and non-English speaking patients even poorer treatment.

Authorities have accused him of killing viable fetuses after giving abortions to women too far along in their pregnancies. He’s also accused of reusing instruments, allowing cats and dogs in the rooms and using unlicensed workers to anesthetize patients.

And he’s charged with the death of a 41-year-old woman after he botched her abortion. Gosnell was able to get away with what he did for so long because the state allowed him to operate in the dark. But if recent news reports are any indication, new restrictions on abortions and tightening of access to funding is forcing many women to seek help in the shadows.

Shadows where opportunists of Gosnell’s ilk are sure to be lurking.

Recently, The Daily Beast reported that Jennie McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three in Idaho, was arrested because she ordered some pills over the Internet to induce her own abortion. She did this because she couldn’t afford a legal procedure.

But in Idaho, it’s illegal for a woman to do her own abortion. She must do it in a doctor’s office.

I imagine the quacks and killers are setting up “offices” right about now.

Then there’s Utah. Two years ago, a 17-year-old became pregnant by a man who is now accused of using her in child pornography. This girl lived in a rural area, had no car and no access to public transportation to the nearest clinic in Salt Lake City and most of all, not enough money for the abortion.

So she paid a man $150 to beat her to cause a miscarriage. The fetus survived – but she was charged with solicitation to commit murder.

I’ll bet some back-alley abortionist is probably scouting rural areas like hers right about now. He’d probably gladly take the $150 – and she’d be taking her chances.

These stories are, to me, chilling cautionary tales. Because what they reveal is something that women who lived through the pre-Roe vs. Wade era already know: That as the doors to legal abortion close, desperation will drive women to resort to dangerous means of ending their pregnancies.

For some, that might mean coat hangers and ulcer medicines and, depending on which state they live in, hoping they don’t get snitched on by a relative – as McCormack was – or turned in by the emergency room doctor.

But for others, it’ll probably mean seeking out doctors like Gosnell, men who’ll take whatever cash they can scrounge up and administer pain and disrespect, and even death, in return.

I worry that poor black and Latino women may be especially vulnerable to this kind of exploitation.

Although many of us live in cities with a number of abortion clinics, I worry that attempts to restrict abortion could intensify to the point where some of us will shun the hassle of trying to get a legal abortion and seek out a back-alley one. The thing that obviously kept Gosnell in business when he should have been shut down ages ago is that he set up shop in an area where the poorest, most exploitable women lived.

They didn’t question him because he was convenient, and they were so used to being marginalized until many of them probably didn’t report the animals in the operating room, as well as the stench and the pain.

Maybe they felt they didn’t deserve better.

Restricting women’s rights and access to safe, legal abortions is good news for the Kermit Gosnell wannabes. But it’s bad news for poor women who only want to exercise their constitutional right to choose.

And not risk being arrested or dying for doing so.

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