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Doctors Call for Decriminalization of Self-Induced Abortion

With abortion pills easily accessible online, the issue could be a big one in coming years.

PAT BENIC/UPI/NewscomPAT BENIC/UPI/NewscomThe largest American association of reproductive- and gynecological-health physicians is calling on U.S. lawmakers to stop the criminalization of self-induced abortion.

In a new position statement, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) "opposes the prosecution of a pregnant woman for conduct alleged to have harmed her fetus, including the criminalization of self-induced abortion." It also "opposes administrative policies that interfere with the legal and ethical requirement to protect private medical information by mandating obstetrician-gynecologists and other clinicians to report to law enforcement women they suspect have attempted self-induced abortion."

While abortion up to a certain point is legal across America, many states still criminalize the procedure if it's not performed by a licensed physician. That means a woman who terminates (or attempts to terminate) her own pregnancy could be guilty of a crime even if doing the same thing at a Planned Parenthood clinic would be legal.

Far from protecting women from unsafe abortions, these policies "may result in negative health outcomes by deterring women from seeking needed care, including care related to complications after abortion," ACOG warns.

The issue could be a big one in coming years. While self-induced abortion is certainly nothing new, the ability to self-induce an abortion safely and with relatively minimal pain is. "Medical abortion"—i.e., abortificient pills effective through at least the first trimester of pregnancy—makes that possible. And foreign internet pharmacies make clandestinely getting abortion pills easier than ever.

Combine this ease of access with rising U.S. medical costs, the disappearance of abortion clinics in many states, an immigration crackdown that leaves undocumented women afraid of too much exposure, and regulations prohibiting the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion pills and an increase in illegally-obtained pills and self-induced abortions is all but inevitable.

But as it stands, women who get caught using illegally-obtained abortion drugs may face charges for child endangerment, feticide, or homicide. "In some cases," notes ACOG, "women have been prosecuted under laws that explicitly criminalize self-abortion or that criminalize harm to the fetus, while in other cases, women have faced charges related to the disposal of pregnancy tissue" or for simply purchasing abortion pills.

All of this needs to stop, the association says.

"History tells us restrictive or punitive measures do not end abortion or reduce unintended pregnancy," said Daniel Grossman, lead author of the ACOG position statement. Rather than criminalize self-abortion, lawmakers who want to curb abortion rates and protect women's health should "instead focus their efforts on proven methods of success, including increasing access to routine preventive care, particularly comprehensive contraceptive choices, as well as to early medication abortion."

Read the whole ACOG position statement here.

Photo Credit: PAT BENIC/UPI/Newscom

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  • Tom Bombadil||

    "But as it stands, women who get caught using illegally-obtained abortion drugs may face charges for child endangerment, feticide, or homicide."

    I can see 'getting caught' purchasing the drugs, but how does one 'get caught' using them?

  • Karen24||

    Going to the ER with hemoraging and having traces in her bloodstream.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    I doubt they'll call the cops.

  • markm23||

    RTFA, Some states are requiring the doctor to call the cops.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    At last, a Final Solution.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I think we need to put more people in prison for behavior we don't like.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Those prisons aren't going to fill themselves.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Harming another human is merely behsvior we do not like, then?

  • Tom Bombadil||

    That's a different argument. The one being had here is, why can a woman have an abortion with a doctor but not on her own?

  • BYODB||

    Remember, these requirements are at least nominally for 'her safety' even while the far right loves to pretend that, on occasion, as a means to limit access. In fact, the left once upon a time was on board with making abortion as safe as possible.

  • ace_m82||

    I don't like murder, theft, assault, or rape.

    Should those things be illegal?

    (I'm an An-Cap, so I can comfortably say "no". How about you?)

  • Libertarian||

    Are these doctors also in favor of making "the pill" OTC? Or would that cut into their bottom line?

  • Robert||

    Huh. Usually if there's a difference, they make it illegal for someone else to do something to you—cut hair, assist suicide, make you a product—but not for you to do it yourself.

  • Jerryskids||

    But wait, I thought women being forced into buying pills online = being denied access to health care! It's only health care if somebody else pays for it. I'm so confused.

  • Michael Hihn||

    I'm so confused.

    Or delusional!

  • lap83||

    "Doctors call for decriminalization of self induced abortion"

    Let's start with the lawyers

  • BYODB||

    So it has come full circle after all, in that we needed to legalize abortion because we didn't want women doing it themselves in 'back alleys' (as one reason among many, admittedly). This change in attitude was actually pretty expected. I do wonder, though, if they also mean it should be decriminalized if she does takes the abortion pill a week before birth...if not I'm sure that's the next thing on the agenda. After all, it limits 'her choice' right?


    Maybe it would be simpler for this association to say when it would be appropriate to prosecute a woman, or anyone, for harming a fetus. It seems that's the more narrow consideration for the pro-choice movement.

  • BYODB||


    Medical abortion"—i.e., abortificient pills effective through at least the first trimester of pregnancy—makes that possible.


    Ah, I see. They're only 'effective' for the first trimester. I'd be curious to know what happens if it's taken later than that, but not curious enough to research it at work. For what it's worth, there are a lot of things women could take for the last hundred+ years that have much the same end effect with, I'm sure, varying degree's of 'safety' for her.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    Dead babies don't grow up and vote.

  • Michael Hihn||

    And living women have an unalienable right to Liberty. If you've attended high school yet, then you know an unalienable right can never be taken away, for any reason, right?

    And you know that includes Life, Liberty, and several others (Pursuit of Happiness),. right?.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    Did you just say Life is an unalienable right? Thank you.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Precisely equal to Liberty and all the others, in that NONE may be taken away.for ANY reason, EVER. That's why both extremes an abortion are immoral fascists.

    You're welcome.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Meanwhile, among LITERATE persons (non-hysteria) the reason to restore abortion is because the woman's right to Liberty, can never be taken away for any reason.

    Self-induced abortion dates back though all of known human history ... until it became a medical procedure.

    It's shameful how can sneer at a woman's God-given rights, but your ilk has been subjugating women since the Old Testament. You know they can own property now, eh? Can even vote!

  • Michael Hihn||

    Actually,. abortion was RE-legalized because no level of government was ever delegated any power to deny or disparage it. It had been common for over 3000 years. and the bans only began when it became a medical procedure, circa 1900.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    What about unborn female individuals?

  • Michael Hihn||

    They have rights identical to the woman carrying them. Both at conception. As ordained by God -- or innate to man -- which only barbarians and statists refuse to accept.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Hey--how about naming the states?

    Surely naming the states where morning after pills are illegal should be easy, right?

    What's that?

    There are none?

    Ah.

  • Michael Hihn||

    This creates a dilemma for some on the Christian right, since self-induced abortions precede the birth of Christ by at least 1,000 years, and abortion was totally legal and common UNTIL it became a medical procedure, circa 1900.

    Last I checked, women gain full rights at some time between conception and birth, depending on various views. I've never figured out how (or when) she loses her unalienable (God-given?) Right To Liberty. As we learned in high school, before some folks are brainwashed, NO unalienable right can EVER be taken away, for ANY reason.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    Life is an inalienable right.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Umm, so is Liberty. THINK, if you can.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Doctors Call for Decriminalization of Self-Induced Abortion"

    Someday supposed libertarian publications might get around to calling for decriminalization of *all* self medication, not just recreational drugs and abortifacients.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Several decades ago, sonny.

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