Women are self-inducing due to lack of access to clinics. (Getty Images)
A new study released yesterday (Nov. 17) by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) found a significant increase in the number of self-induced abortions since the passage of HB2, the restrictive abortion legislative in the state that is now headed to the Supreme Court for consideration.
The organization, part of the University of Texas at Austin, surveyed 779 women, 22 percent of whom say they themselves or someone they personally knew had self-induced or attempted to self-induce an abortion. If this rate were applied to the population of women of child-bearing age in Texas (ages 18 to 49) as a whole, that would mean that approximately 240,000 women in the state have attempted to self-induce or know someone who has.
The women were interviewed between October 2014 and October 2015, and many of their stories are terrifying.
“And after a while taking all the pills was very nauseating and I didn’t want to do it any more,” one interviewee wrote, about taking black cohosh, vitamin C and “a special root pill” to try to end her pregnancy. “So, it was just a lot to take in and I wasn’t taking it well, but I kept doing it anyway.”
HB2, which was enacted in Texas after being signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, implemented a ban on all abortions performed 20 weeks post-fertilization (with limited exceptions). It requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital that provides ob-gyn services and is located no more than 30 miles from where the abortion is performed, and they must provide patients with a phone number at which they can be reached 24 hours a day. It also includes new reporting requirements for physicians, including their calculation of the post-fertilization age of the aborted fetus.
Reproductive rights advocates say the law is unconstitutional, not only placing an undue burden on patients seeking abortion but also violating the right to abortion guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
A previous report, presented by TxPEP last month, found that if HB2 is allowed to stand and the majority of the state’s abortion clinics close as a result, the number of abortions per clinic would dramatically increase, as would the number of abortions performed after 12 weeks as a result of an influx of demand — and thus increased wait times — at the few remaining clinics.
If HB2 stands, the 5.4 million women of reproductive age in Texas will be left with only 10 health centers statewide that provide safe, legal abortion, down from the approximately 40 health centers that existed before HB2 came into effect.
Dr. David Grimes, a retired ob-gyn and clinical professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told Yahoo Health that surveys from the 1950s, before the national legalization of abortion through Roe v. Wade, show that somewhere between 200,000 and 200 million abortions were performed illegally each year in the United States. Grimes says that, at this time, it is safe to estimate that four women a day died in American as a consequence of illegal abortion.
Should abortion again become a states’ rights issue, like it was before the Roe ruling in 1973, Grimes says, women might find themselves back in the position they were in the early 1970s, when 80 percent of all abortions were performed in two states: New York and California.