Lacking Health Insurance, More Women Turning to Do-It-Yourself Abortion

When President Obama imposed restrictions on abortion care in health reform, reproductive health advocates expressed alarm, arguing that reducing access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion care for poor and uninsured women not reduce abortions but instead either increase financial burdens on poor women or put them in physical peril, or both.

Now, experts note, we are beginning to see women take matters into their own hands to obtain a needed abortion.  One example is increasing use of misoprostol.

Via ABC News:

Health experts say illicit use of the drug [misoprostol] underscores the barriers that many women face when trying to access reproductive care, particularly immigrants and women of color.

They worry that the amendment in the passage of the new health care law to ban the use of federal funds in Medicaid and insurance exchanges for abortion could further marginalize women’s access to reproductive care.

“[I]f you are poor, you cannot get an abortion,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas , deputy director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). “Wealthy women can pay out of pocket and have access to clinics and services.”

The cost of even early abortion care is so high relative to the income levels of poor and uninsured women that some are already resorting to even more dangerous do-it-yourself procedures, according to ABC.

In a recently completed survey by Ibis Reproductive Health and Gynuity Health Projects of about 1,500 women in New York, Boston, San Francisco and along the Texas-Mexico border, about 4 percent of ever-pregnant women admitted using the drug or some other method to self-induce an abortion.

“Forever, women have used things to end an unwanted pregnancy, and misoprostol is a new solution to an old problem,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, a San Francisco obstetrician gynecologist and a researcher with Ibis Reproductive Health.

“They are using a lot of different kinds of methods, including throwing themselves down the stairs and being punched in the stomach,” he said. “In Michigan a young woman told her boyfriend to beat her with a toy bat to try to induce an abortion.”

Women will be putting themselves at even greater risks in order to obtain abortions, with the burden lying on low-income women to find a way to either fund the procedure or potentially sacrifice her health and potentially her life. 

Or, as former NARAL Pro-Choice President Kate Michelman stated during a panel discussion in July, “We are going to have a Roe v. Wade legal moment with poor women before we can ever get [rights to terminate a pregnancy] back.”

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  • lauracarroll

    Seems to me that restrictions on abortion care as part of health reform is one of the bones the President threw to try and get conservative buy in. These are the same women who more than likely do not have adequate education about and access to birth control. Their health loses on many fronts. Truly saddening.

  • ibis-reproductive-health

    We appreciate that this post (and the article it discusses) highlights how abortion access may be further reduced under national health reform and how low-income women continue to lose out under a health system that refuses to define abortion care as a routine health service. 


    As a point of clarification, the research conducted by Ibis Reproductive Health and Gynuity Health Projects did not aim to measure the prevalence of self-induced abortion and we have no evidence that it is becoming more common.  A manuscript based on our research findings is currently under review and we look forward to sharing our results soon.

  • kevin-rahe
  • ahunt

    Uh Kevin…Jill Stanek and “critical analysis” is an oxymoron. Lifenews is also suspect…having this widely recognized reputation for distorting/misrepresenting facts/science to fit an agenda….at best.

  • prochoiceferret


    I thought you were going to post a critical analysis, but all I see is a link to a typical LifeNews article written by Jill Stanek.