Richson: When abortion is too costly


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The depths of the Internet never cease to amaze me, particularly when it comes to the range of items you can purchase online. The web holds a long list of items that you might not to be able to readily access where you live or even that you might be too embarrassed to purchase in person.

There’s not much you cannot find on the Internet if you’re looking hard enough. Cue the case of a mother in rural Pennsylvania who was able to obtain abortion pills online for her daughter with just a few clicks.

The pill, which included a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, is regarded as a safe at-home means to induce a miscarriage if the woman is still in the early stages of pregnancy. The problem is that, despite the ease with which these pills were obtained via the Internet, there was a lack of clarity that what the mother was doing for her daughter was illegal.

Earlier this year, a study was released that showed a steady national decline in abortions from the ’80s up until 2011. One author of the study, Rachel Jones, stated that her research did not seem to be due to any decline in the prevalence of abortion providers, but rather to the more widespread use of effective contraception. However, the Guttmacher Institute states, “more abortion restrictions were enacted in 2011 to 2013 than in the entire previous decade.”

This fact makes the apparent availability of “abortion pills” online all the more concerning, because it suggests that women may begin to feel a need to seek abortions through nonlegitimate means rather than to make a both financially and emotionally costly journey to the nearest abortion clinic. And for the Pennsylvania mother beginning to serve time for an online purchase that came all too easily, the journey has just begun.

The legality of abortions is a historically touchy issue. The same persistent regard for the right to human life that pro-life activists hold does not seem to match with the reality that, as clinics continue to close their doors, women who are in need of services may risk their own lives in order to seek out a more socially discrete method of abortion.

The trend of dwindling abortion clinics, for me personally, does nothing but bring up images of the disturbing aftermath of the abortion depicted in the iconic Dirty Dancing. While the film is nearly 30 years old, that one particular thematic element remains relevant today.

I recognize that there are people who deem this a nonissue for the mere fact that they do not condone abortion in any circumstance. But the case of the Pennsylvania mother, essentially serving time for being there for her daughter, has to make you wonder about the future of legitimate abortions and the lengths people will go to get an abortion regardless.

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