When we deprive women of access to abortion, shun them, and even throw them in jail, we as a society become weaker.
By Amanda Marcotte
December 14, 2011
Jennie McCormack, a resident of Idaho and a mother of three, has spent the past few months of her life in a legal and social situation that calls to mind the trials of Hester Pyrnne, the heroine of The Scarlet Letter. As reported by Nancy Hass of Newsweek, McCormack’s ordeal started when she learned she was pregnant by a man who was doing time for robbery.
Realizing that she couldn’t afford another baby, nor the $500 fee and two trips to get an abortion (because Idaho requires women to wait 24 hours after their first visit to the doctor to “think it over”), McCormack resorted to buying RU-486 from a vendor online. The police eventually arrested McCormack and charged her with an illegal abortion, claiming that she was over Idaho’s legal limit of 20 weeks for an abortion. Since the exact gestational age can’t be determined, charges have been dropped for now, but prosecutors are retaining the right to re-charge McCormack. In the meantime, she’s become a pariah in her community, been fired from her job, and even had to face social workers who are basically denying her aid to care for her children.
Even in super-liberal New York City, a woman is being prosecuted (albeit in a less drastic way) for a self-abortion after the legal limit. The desperate woman, accused of aborting after six months, threw the fetus in a trash can, presumably because she was not aware of her other options for disposing of it.
In the United States, abortion is technically a legal right, but as these cases show, it’s not functionally a right. If abortion were actually a right, women wouldn’t have such a difficult time getting a legal abortion that they resort to drastic measures that land them in jail. These cases demonstrate why abortion needs to be more than a right for those who have the means to jump through all the hoops put in place to keep them from obtaining legal abortions. Making sure women who want abortions can get them in a timely and safe fashion helps more than the women in question. We all do better if women can get the abortions that are supposedly their right.