Reminder: Abortion Restrictions Ruin Women’s Lives

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Photo: Corbis

Anti-abortion legislators say restrictions like waiting periods and admitting privileges — which have shut down clinics across America — also protect women, ensuring they have a safe procedure without regret. Back in real life, they force women to get illegal abortions that endanger their health and land them in jail.

Pennsylvania mom Jennifer Whalen, 39, began to serve a 9- to 18-month sentence earlier this month for the crime of ordering mifepristone and misoprostol — the super-safe medical abortion drugs some believe is the future of abortion care — for her 16-year-old daughter. Emily Bazelon has an exclusive interview with Whalen, who told her she resorted to ordering the drug online (something she didn't know was illegal) because of a waiting period.

The closest clinic was about 75 miles away. Pennsylvania requires women seeking abortions to first receive counseling and wait 24 hours before returning for the procedure. The cost of a first-trimester abortion is typically between $300 and $600. Whalen works as a personal-care aide at an assisted-living center for the elderly. She didn’t have health insurance for her daughter. And she was worried about taking time away from work and her family to make two trips or to stay overnight. At the time, Whalen and her husband shared one car, which they both used to get to work. And she hadn’t told her husband about the pregnancy. “I knew he would be upset, and I was protecting the whole family,” she said.

Whalen pleaded guilty to “offering medical consultation about abortion without a medical license,” a felony. I think writing anti-abortion legislation without a medical license should be a crime too.