How Women Can Get Help To Carry Out An Illegal, But Safe Abortion In The United States of America

Increasingly restrictive laws in the US, thanks to Donald Trump, are pushing women to get help in other ways

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Since Donald Trump's inauguration, women's reproductive rights have been in jeopardy.

We knew that Trump was ostensibly 'pro-life' throughout his campaign, he publicly suggested that women should be punished for having an abortion.

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Sadly, he has stayed true to his words and has already begun doling out his punishments; he signed the Global Gag ruling prohibiting US money going to sexual health clinics across the globe that provide abortions as part of their services and Donald has threatened to defund Planned Parenthood if they continue providing abortions (despite already seeing the removal of federal funding).

Emboldened under a Republican President many states are continuing to tighten the noose around choice. Ohio is one of the worst culprits, recently prohibiting abortion after 20-weeks, two to four weeks before the stated timeline in the famous Roe versus Wade ruling.

In February, Oklahoma State representative Justin Humphries suggested women needed the father's permission to have an abortion, describing a woman as merely a 'host'.

And in Arizona, Doug Ducey recently signed a bill which determined all foetuses that are 'born alive' are to be resuscitated, no matter the medical opinion of the doctor administering the late-term abortion.

Quite unbelievably, in some US states, Doctors are legally bound to lie about foetal pain and unfounded links to Breast Cancer by way of persuading women out of abortion.

The latest news is that Republican Senator in South Carolina backed the 'Personhood' Bill that could see foetuses being given equal rights under the law, as the mother.

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What Trump also makes clear in the above video, however, is that he understands the fact that when abortion is criminalised, women turn to alternative, illegal options.

Either they can go to a doctor who is willing to administer the abortion, this means no insurance, no protection and no safety.

Or, women self-administer their own abortions, with sometimes horrifying consequences.

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Be it bleach, hot baths or clothes hangers, there are plenty of dangerous, ineffective and painful options women have tried, in order to end an unwanted pregnancy.

The passing of HB2 in Texas in 2013 (overturned last year) heavily restricted access to abortions. It meant that the number of abortion providers more than halved, alongside the total amount of abortions.

Well, legal ones anyway.

The New York Times reports in this article that there was a serious rise in Google searches in 2015 for phrases such as 'how to have a miscarriage', 'how to self-abort', ' buy abortion pills online', 'free abortion pills', as well as specific searches on herbs, coat hangers, bleach and punching your own stomach.

And, although we can't be sure how many of those searches converted into action, The Guardian reported at the end of last year that around 4 per cent of women in Texas have attempted to self-induce a miscarriage, which is at least 100,000 women.

So, to avoid women having to buy pills from untrustworthy sources (or do far worse to themselves), Women on Web, a non-profit in the Netherlands, provides women with abortion pills by mail.

They recently released some of the letters and emails that have been sent to them from women, desperate to have access to a safe abortion.

And they aren't the only ones. Women Help Women is a three year-old international advocacy group also in the Netherlands, who, according to the Washington Post, recently moved online to offer their services internationally as well.

Women Help Women's executive director Kinga Jelinska told the Washington Post about her concern for women in the US, 'There is a lot of fear and worry that, with the current administration and restrictions that are to the enormous disadvantage of girls and women, that access to clinical care might further diminish.'

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Regarding the medical safety of at-home abortions, the Women Help Women website states,

The World Health Organization lists Mifepristone and Misoprostol, the medicines for abortion, on the list of essential medicines that should be available everywhere. Mifepristone and Misoprostol can be safely used at home in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy. They cause a process very similar to a spontaneous miscarriage and are 98% effective in ending a pregnancy when used correctly. Millions of women have used this method safely.

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Regarding the legality of self-administered abortions, or procuring drugs outside of the medical system, the laws in the US are hazy and, as ever, vary greatly from state-to-state.

There has been a few high-profile cases of late, however, that have seen women prosecuted.

In 2014 a woman was sentenced to a 9-to-18-month sentence for buying her 16-year-old daughter a pill to induce miscarriage for buying her 16-year-old daughter a pill to induce miscarriage. Herdaughter wanted the abortion, but the nearest clinic was 75 miles away, it had a mandatory 24 hour wait and cost between $300-$600.

Anna Yocca gave birth to a 24-week baby, in 2015, from attempting to abort using a coat hanger. She had told doctors she did not want to have the baby and there was no abortion clinic in her county. She was charged with attempted murder, though after a year of debate and public outcry, they reduced the sentence to one year after pleading guilty to attempted procurement of a miscarriage.

And for 43-year-old Michelle Frances Roberts - who has been accused of self-aborting in the third trimester of her pregnancy after foetal remains were found in her backyard - her case is still ongoing.

Though Women Help Women can't help with the legal aspect, they hope to provide unbiased evidence about the dangers of abortion, and attempt to provide real advocacy for the disenfranchised women who contact them.

Jelinska explained to the Washington Post that, from yesterday, US women will be able to go to Abortionpillinfo.org to 'send a secure message to a trained counselor based overseas. Within a few hours, counselors will respond with evidence-based answers, using guidance from the World Health Organisation.'

It seems clear that blocking abortions at the point of access does nothing to stop women want to end unplanned pregnancies. If less abortions are truly the aim of the US government, they may do better supporting women educationally, emotional and economically instead of punishing and prosecuting them.

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