A piece recently published in the New York Times has charted a direct relationship between limiting abortion clinic access and self-induced abortions. It looks like the latter has seen a significant increase since 2011, when 24 states legislated 92 provisions with an aim to obstruct access to abortion-related services.
While the article says it is difficult to collect survey data due to the stigmas attached to the subject (“people may not feel comfortable sharing the truth in a survey”), data derived from Google searches gave a concise picture of “the hidden demand for self-induced abortion” that bears a striking similarity to a pre-Roe v. Wade America:
“In 2015, in the United States, there were about 119,000 searchers for the exact phrase ‘how to have a miscarriage.’ There were also searchers for other variants—’how to self abort’—and for particular methods. Over all, there were more than 700,000 Google searches looking into self-induced abortions in 2015.
For comparison, there were some 3.4 million searches for abortion clinics and, according to estimates by the Guttmacher Institute, there are around one million legal abortions a year.”
To recap: the number of people who looked up D.I.Y. abortions on the Internet is almost as many as the number of people who actually had abortions.
The piece also breaks down other search terms involving methodology, including “tens of thousands of searches looking into abortion by herbs like parsley or vitamin C,” roughly 4,000 searches for play-by-play instructions for hanger abortions, and a few hundred for “bleaching one’s uterus and punching one’s stomach.”
So where are these self-induced abortions taking place? There seems to be a correlation between states with the more restrictions in place to curb abortion clinic access—the highest number of Google searches were found in Mississippi, which has only one abortion clinic to its name, and “eight of the 10 states with highest search rates for self-induced abortions are considered...to be hostile or very hostile to abortion.”
Even more devastating were results garnered from another survey in Texas, which revealed that 4.1% of women in the state either knew or were almost sure that their best friend had attempted a D.I.Y. abortion. Yet another study recorded that 34% of Americans, “either [women or] the potential father”—did not tell anyone else about their or their partner’s abortion. The stats illustrate a bleak vista of an unforgiving culture of shame and self-blame—a result of restricted access to services they need.
In the end, the article found a definitive cause-and-effect: Limiting access to abortion clinics: it doesn’t stave off the rate of abortions in the U.S., but only increases the number of illegal abortions year to year.
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