The following is a cross-post with Choice Words, the blog of ChoiceUSA.
Factual horror or alarmist hype?
According to Anna Anderson, a staff member at a Wisconsin CPC, "at least 10" young women aged 14-18 admit to taking prostaglandins, a drug used by cow breeders to regulate the animals' heat cycles, to self-abort. The American Animal Hospital Association has issued an advisory to breeders who use prostaglandins, although no case of a woman actually using the drug to induce abortion.
The reports are being investigated by the Wisconsin Vetrinary Medical Association, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Public Health, who are both skeptical that women actually used the drug for terminations. The Wisconsin Department of Public Health issued a statement saying the "extent of [prostaglandin-induced abortions] is e-mails and Web sites ... There's no proof that this occurring."Staff at Monroe High School (the school where Anderson's alleged clients attended school) have looked into the matter and cannot find any evidence of any student using this method.
If the rumors are true, this is a dangerous new trend in growing instances of "do it yourself" abortions. The risks would be similar to that of RU-486, or "the abortion pill," a drug sometimes used to induce a miscarriage early in pregnancy: excessive bleeding, incomplete abortion, and infection. However, these risks would be far more severe since the drug would be administered without medical supervision. Where RU-486 is administered in a controlled dose, prostaglandins would be consumed in an uncontrolled amount, possibly leading to overdose or excessive hemorrhaging. Where a woman experiencing excessive bleeding would be advised to contact their abortion care provider, a young woman self-aborting would not have that backup help, and the lack of a follow-up visit to ensure the abortion was complete could easily lead to serious infection that could go untreated and do permanent damage or even lead to death.
For all the press this CareNet staffer has received in this possible reproductive horror story, only one statement from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (also looking into the rumor) can be found: "It's disturbing if it's true." And disturbing it is. Unfortunately, most of the attention from the rumor has been focused around how "sad" it is that these girls are getting pregnant and self-aborting. Anna Anderson and CareNet Pregnancy Center of Green County, where these rumors first surfaced, are enjoying massive amounts of local press and thank-yous for alerting local parents to this phenomenon. Real clinics like Planned Parenthood are facing subtle accusations for even introducing abortion into the community's vocabulary in the first place.
Never mind the fact that CareNet is one of the strongest forces in the antichoice camp's plight to restrict abortion access (which would surely increase instances of these dangerous do-it-yourself abortions). They're also staunch supporters of abstinence-only sex education and parental consent requirements, which teens in Wisconsin are, like most teens in the U.S., required to receive before abortion. Wisconsin is also one of many states with an insurance prohibition on abortion. Surely young women would not have to resort to such drastic and dangerous measures if these restrictions were not in place...?
Of course there's one thing Anderson and I can agree on: if teens are in fact using prostaglandin to induce abortion, they are risking their own lives. But what we disagree on is monumental. Do it yourself abortions are a measure of last resort (or a measure of securing one's confidentiality, as the case may be), highlighting the drastic need for major reforms in all realms of reproductive health: education, prevention, and access.