Self-induced abortion

Self-induced abortion

A self-induced abortion (or self-induced miscarriage) is an abortion performed by the pregnant woman herself outside the recognized medical system. Although the term can include abortions induced through legal, over-the-counter medication, it also refers to efforts to terminate a pregnancy through alternative, often more dangerous means. Such practices are illegal [1]in most jurisdictions—even where abortion itself is legal—and may present a grave threat to the life of a woman. An unsuccessful attempt to induce such an abortion can also cause lasting damage to the fetus. Currently this is fairly common where abortion is illegal or unavailable, but it does occur in developed countries as well.[2] Self-induced abortion is easier to accomplish in the earliest stages of pregnancy (the first eight weeks from the last menstrual period).[3]

Contents

Methods

Khokhar and Gulati report that women in underdeveloped areas of India successfully induce abortions through the following methods[4]:

  • Lifting of heavy weights;
  • Abdominal massage;
  • Consumption of mutton marrow;
  • Consumption of dried henna powder;
  • Consumption of carrot seed soup;

There are a number of anecdotally recorded and disseminated methods of performing a self-induced abortion. Many of the following methods present significant danger (see below) to the life or health of the woman:

  • physical exertion designed to bring about a miscarriage
  • abdominal massage
  • receiving punches, kicks, or other blows to the abdominal area
  • bellyflopping onto a hard surface
  • attempted removal of the fetus with a coat-hanger or similar device inserted into the uterus through the cervix (the historical use of this method has led to the use of coathangers as a symbol of the abortion rights movement, which associates dangerous methods of self-induced abortion with the illegality of abortion)[citation needed]
  • attempted piercing of the fetus with a knitting needle or similar device inserted into the uterus through the cervix
  • suction through the insertion of a rubber tube into the uterus via the cervix
  • ingesting abortifacients, high quantities of vitamin C, Pennyroyal or other substances believed to induce miscarriage[5]
  • douching with substances believed to induce miscarriage (beginning in the 1960s, many women used Coca Cola for this purpose, although its utility is at best dubious)
  • vaginal pessaries
  • yoga
  • acupuncture
  • hypothermia

Dr David Reuben's book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) mentions that many African women use a carved wooden abortion stick to induce, which has often been handed down.[6]

In particular, attempts to insert hazardous objects into the uterus can cause punctures leading to septicemia. Ingesting or douching with harmful substances can have poisonous results. Receiving blows to the abdomen, whether self inflicted or at the hands of another, can damage organs. Furthermore, the less dangerous methods - physical exertion, abdominal massage, and ingestion of relatively harmless substances thought to induce miscarriage - are less effective, and may result in the fetus developing birth defects. However, abdominal massage abortion is traditionally practised in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia [7][8]

The cheap prescription synthetic prostaglandin drug Misoprostol - used in the U.S. to treat gastric ulcers - is often used as an abortifacient in self-induced abortion in Latin American countries where legal abortions are unavailable, and its use has also been observed in immigrant populations in New York.[9] Although proponents of this method deem it to be safer than those using insertion of objects or chemicals into the uterus, they also note that failure to effect an abortion by this method can lead to the child being born with serious birth defects. Furthermore, the drug causes a drastic drop in blood pressure, and women may haemmorhage as a result of misusing the drug for the purpose of abortion.[10]

Current medical procedures are seen as significantly physically safer than traditional at-home methods. In 1979, Bernard Nathanson, MD, an "abortion expert and an obstetrician-gynecologist who once presided over the largest abortion clinic in the world," wrote in his book Aborting America:[11]

"The practice of abortion was revolutionized at virtually the same moment that the laws were revolutionized, through the widespread introduction of suction curettage in 1970. ... Even without a suction machine, a simple combination of catheter and syringe can produce enough suction to carry out a safe early abortion. As for the self-induced abortion, by thrusting a coat hanger or other dangerous object into the womb, this will also be a thing of the past."

In the United States

The practice of self-induced abortion by various means has long been recorded in the United States. Turn-of-the-20th-century birth control advocate Margaret Sanger wrote in her autobiography of a 1912 incident in which she was summoned to treat a woman who had nearly died from such an attempt.[12]

A study concluded in 1968[13] determined that over 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed every year in the United States, a portion of which were performed by women acting alone. The study suggested that the number of women dying as a result of self-induced abortions exceeded those resulting from abortions performed by another person. Due to estimated underreporting of illegal procedures, these numbers may not be accurate.[citation needed] A 1979 study noted that many women who required hospitalization following self-induced abortion attempts were admitted under the pretext of having had a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion.[14]

Although Roe v. Wade[15] made abortion more readily available throughout the U.S., it remains a crime in most jurisdictions for a woman to attempt to perform an abortion on herself. In May 2005, Gabriela Flores - a Mexican immigrant living in South Carolina - was charged under such a statute, which carried a maximum penalty of two years in prison. She had induced abortion by ingesting misoprostol, an ulcer medication with abortifacient potential.[16] Mississippi classifies self-induced abortions as deaths which affect the public interest, requiring that physicians report them to the local medical examiner. [1] By contrast, New Mexico's "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" exempts self-induced abortion from the criminal liability the act creates.[2]

References

  1. ^ UNVERIFIED ASSERTION NEEDS CITATION.
  2. ^ Thapa SR, Rimal D, Preston J (Sep 2006). "Self induction of abortion with instrumentation". Aust Fam Physician 35 (9): 697–8. PMID 16969439. 
  3. ^ Sage-Femme Collective, Natural Liberty: Rediscovering Self-Induced Abortion Methods (2008).
  4. ^ Khokhar, A.; Gulati, N. (2000). "Profile of Induced Abortions in Women from an Urban Slum of Delhi". Indian Journal of Community Medicine (Chandigarh, Republic of India: Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine) 25 (4): 177–80. ISSN 1998-3581. OCLC 60622662. http://medind.nic.in/iaj/t00/i4/iajt00i4p177g.pdf. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  5. ^ Natural Ways to Induce a Miscarriage.
  6. ^ Reuben, David (c. 1971). "Abortion". Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (17th ed.). Bantam. pp. 323–324. ISBN 055305570. 
  7. ^ Malcolm Potts, Martha Campbell, History of Contraception, Vol. 6, Chp. 8, Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2002.
  8. ^ Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, Thailand: Abortion Policy.
  9. ^ John Leland: "Abortion Might Outgrow Its Need for Roe v. Wade", The New York Times, 2 October 2005.
  10. ^ Kathy Simmonds, Susan Yanow, Use of Misoprostol for Self-induced Abortion Around the World.
  11. ^ Bernard Nathanson, MD, Aborting America (Doubleday, 1979).
  12. ^ Margaret Sanger. An Autobiography. (New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1938).
  13. ^ Richard Schwarz, Septic Abortion (Philadelphia: JB Lippincott Co., 1968).
  14. ^ Bose C., A comparative study of spontaneous and self-induced abortion cases in married women. J Indian Med Assoc. 1979 Aug; 73 (3-4): 56-9.
  15. ^ Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
  16. ^ Mother Jones: Mail-Order Abortions. November/December 2006

See also

External links


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