D.I.Y. abortions

A Massachusetts teenager is in trouble after her attempt to self-induce abortion failed:

An abortion was out of the question. [Amber] Abreu, 18, had done that once already. She couldn’t ask her mother to pay for that again. Her mother, a Venezuelan immigrant who wanted so much for her children, would be devastated.

It’s interesting that Abreu didn’t consider taking the pills — which a friend brought her from the Dominican Republic — to be the same thing as having an abortion. In a study of Latina immigrants and their relationship with self-induced abortion using Cytotec, many said they considered taking the pills “better” than surgical abortion, or not an abortion at all.

[Abreu] did not contact social service workers or community organizations. She had learned nothing about birth control or what to do if she became pregnant again. She received no prenatal care. She took the Cytotec.

This is what happens when abortion is both incredibly expensive and stigmatized — women turn to DIY methods. And sometimes they backfire. Abreu’s story reminded me of Gabriela Flores, a Mexican immigrant who was arrested for self-inducing abortion using the same drug, was initially charged with murder. The charges were later reduced to “illegal abortion.” Abreu may face homicide charges.
There’s a reason Cytotec is a popular abortion method in countries where abortion is illegal, such as the Dominican Republic (where Abreu’s pills came from). In Latin America, Cytotec is commonly sold over-the-counter and costs only a few dollars per pill. International repro health organizations like Ipas are doing important outreach work educating women when and how they can safely have abortions using Cytotec (misoprostol) alone. If doctor-supervised abortion isn’t an option, and when proper doses are used at the right point in pregnancy, it can be a safe and effective way to have a DIY abortion. But it’s bad news when women like Abreu get the pills without all the information.

Join the Conversation