Well well well. The anti-choice claim that criminalizing abortion won’t lead to people being thrown in jail for ending their pregnancies is becoming harder to sustain. These days, even mothers who help their daughters get the abortions they want can be charged.
Pennsylvania mother Jennifer Whalen is being charged with multiple crimes after allegedly purchasing drugs off the internet and giving them to her then 16-year-old pregnant daughter, who wanted an abortion. Whalen said she purchased the drugs after being unable to find a clinic close enough to have a legal abortion and not wanting to take her daughter out of state to obtain one (based on her location, the likely nearest clinic would have been in New York state).
Whalen has been charged with “felony count of medical consultation and judgment and misdemeanor charges of unlawful acts – not licensed as a pharmacist, endangering the welfare of a child and simple assault,” according to one news report. The charges themselves are horrifying — after all, helping your daughter end a pregnancy she doesn’t want surely isn’t “endangering the welfare of a child” or “simple assault” any more than forcing her to continue a pregnancy against her will would be.
Back when illegal abortions meant secret surgeries by a provider (in the best case scenario, a real doctor, but often not), perhaps anti-choicers could reasonably claim that abortion could be outlawed by focusing legal action solely on the providers. But these days, getting an “illegal” abortion is as easy as ordering the abortion drugs misoprostol and/or mifepristone online. In fact, Whalen says she didn’t even realize she needed to get a prescription for them.
When the patient is the provider, Marty asks, what’s an anti-choice prosecutor to do “when it comes time to make sure someone is punished in the case of an illegal abortion, serving as a warning for others who also might seek out illegal means to terminate their own pregnancy?” Sometimes it’s the pregnant person, as we saw in the case of Jennie Linn McCormack who was charged with “self-abortion.” And sometimes, apparently, it’s a mother helping her daughter through a stressful time.
The fact that more and more folks are turning to illegal medication abortions–either by purchasing pills on the internet like Whalen did or across the border like people in the Lower Rio Grande Valley do–is directly because of anti-choice policies that have forced clinics across the country to close. And as this trend continues, Marty warns, “this latest case is a red flag that anyone can be arrested as aiding a patient, regardless of age or relationship. That doesn’t mean less abortions. It just means that the practice will go further underground, making it more isolated for the person terminating the pregnancy and inevitably more dangerous as she grows even more fearful about bringing legal repercussions on herself and anyone who may find out about it.”
If abortion outlawed by the time she has kids, Maya Dusenbery will most definitely secure an illegal abortion if her daughter needs one.