Last Christmas Eve, a 32 year old Idaho woman took RU-486 in an attempt to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. This January, police found the fetal remains on her property and charged her with inducing her own abortion, a crime in the state. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence, but not before everyone in town ostracized the woman for her acts. Now, some state officials want the authority to charge the woman again, and they're prepared to use the case as a means to issue another challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. And we just won Depressing Abortion Story Bingo.
Newsweek's Nancy Haas reports on the story of Jennie Linn McCormack, a tale that has all the makings of the feel-bad movie of the year.
McCormack already had three children when she discovered that she was pregnant a fourth time. The man who impregnated her had been sent to jail on robbery charges, she was living in a tiny apartment in southeastern Idaho, and had no job. She would have had to drive five hours round trip in order to get to Salt Lake City, Utah, the nearest clinic where abortion is offered. And because Utah requires a waiting period before a woman's allowed to terminate a pregnancy and McCormack already had three kids, she couldn't swing the logistics of ten hours in the car in order to pick up two measly pills. Her solution was to ask her sister in Mississippi to order it over the internet for her. When the pills arrived in the mail, Jennie McCormack attempted to induce her own abortion.
According to Newsweek, the abortion pill RU-486 has gained in popularity in recent years, not because taking pills is super fun, but because pro-life activists scare the shit out of people.
The proliferation of sites providing the drugs coincides with the pro-life movement's highly effective protests and attacks on physicians, clinics, and health-care groups that offer abortions. The number of Planned Parenthood affiliates has been cut in half since 1987, to fewer than 100. Almost 90 percent of counties in the U.S. and 98 percent of rural counties have no abortion services. Many clinics in states where local physicians are pressured not to perform abortions now fly in doctors from out of state to provide abortions, says Melanie Zurek, the executive director of the Abortion Access Project, a Boston-based group that offers training and support to doctors and health organizations.
A 2007 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for states to enact stricter late-term abortion regulations further drove women like McCormack to obtain terminations in a way that attempts to circumvent that regulation. When the going gets tough, the tough go to the internet for what they need.
Unbeknownst to her, Jennie McCormack was about 20 weeks pregnant, well past the point where doctors would recommend a woman terminate her pregnancy chemically. But because she hadn't seen a doctor at any point during this process, she didn't know that. Although RU-486 isn't recommended for women who are more than 7 or so weeks pregnant, the pills worked, and McCormack was horrified by the sight of the advanced fetal remains. In a panic, she put them in a box on her porch and called her friend, who told someone else, who in turn told the police. McCormack was arrested and charged for inducing her own abortion, a law in Idaho that was enacted in 1972, but until 2011 had never been enforced.
Charges were eventually dropped against McCormack due to a lack of evidence, but by that time, the damage to her reputation had been done.
After her picture appeared in the paper, McCormack got a part-time job at a dry cleaner, using another name, but people figured out who she was and stopped letting her bag up their clothes, so she quit. On a recent trip to a local state office to apply for aid, she was ignored for hours.
Makes sense. No one wants their clothes stained with the hands of sin.
To make matters worse, prosecutors in the case retained the right to file charges again, pending new evidence that the fetal remains were not the result of a miscarriage. McCormack's attorney thinks Idaho lawmakers may try to appeal this all the way to the Supreme Court, which could mean that one woman's desperate attempt to have an abortion could lead to another chance for the conservative court to make abortions even easier for states to restrict. Another day, another way for the government to remind you that your body's only really yours if they say it is.
The Next Roe v Wade? [Newsweek]