Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Abortion may be legal in the United States, but the myriad restrictions placed upon its access, and the culture of shame surrounding abortion that the anti-choice movement has so successfully promoted, weigh most heavily upon poor women and teenagers. Here is a stark illustration. Eileen McNamara writes in Sunday's Boston Globe:
The one, certain place Amber Abreu did not belong while prosecutors decide whether the Lawrence teenager's self-induced abortion amounts to manslaughter is the state's maximum-security prison for women. Framingham state prison is where this teenager was incarcerated after her arrest last week on the archaic-sounding charge of "procuring miscarriage." It is where she spent three nights until her family was able to borrow $15,000 for bail, an amount inconceivable to a young woman whose Dominican street remedy for ending an unwanted pregnancy collided with American ambivalence about abortion.
What Amber did -- swallow pills marketed to prevent ulcers but known to induce abortion -- is a crime in the United States but commonplace in the Dominican Republic where misoprostol is available over the counter and where abortion is both illegal and widely practiced. . . .
What is clear is that an inner-city teenager who is still studying English made a desperate choice when a safe and legal one proved inaccessible. Amber knew abortion was legal in the United States. Her family had raised the money for her to undergo the procedure a year ago. Whether from shame or fear, Amber said , she could not ask her mother to help her again. She turned to the cheap home remedy that landed her in Lawrence District Court last week in shackles.
The law is a tool, not a cudgel. It is to be used with discretion by those who wield it. This tragedy -- and it is a tragedy -- is less a measure of one teenager's bad choices than it is an indictment of a culture that tells all women abortion is their legal, constitutionally protected right, but tolerates a lack of access for the neediest women. A well-heeled suburban 18-year-old who chooses to terminate a pregnancy need only write a check. . . . Beyond the challenge of access is the question of education. How comprehensive could Amber's understanding be of contraception if she faced her second unwanted pregnancy in a year?
Read Bad Choices All Around.