A Disturbing Number of Texas Women Have Tried Self-Aborting

January 5th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

Restricted access to abortion services in Texas is causing thousands of women in the state to resort to self-induced procedures for unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

At least 100,000 women, and possibly more than double that, have tried self-induced abortions without medical assistance, according to a recent study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. The study found that at least 1.7 percent of Texas' 18-49-year-olds had tried it, with just over 4 percent saying they knew or suspected their best friend had tried the procedure.

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The study's authors attributed the high numbers to recent legislative regulation of abortion in Texas. (While the percentages are low, keep in mind that Texas' population is immense.)

"This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk," Dr. Daniel Grossman, a co-investigator and professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a press release.

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"As clinic-based care becomes harder to access in Texas, we can expect more women to feel that they have no other option and take matters into their own hands," Grossman continued.

Additionally, researchers noted that the reasons for self-induced abortions from responders varied from financial shortcomings, recommendation from a friend or family member, and cultural stigmas associated with going to an abortion clinic. But the study's researchers also suggested Texas women may be more likely to try self-aborting than women in other states, a factor which could be attributed to restricted access.

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In 2013, the state enacted a law known as HB2, an omnibus bill which included some harsh restrictions on abortion access. Since 2013, the report notes, more than half of the state's abortion-providing clinics have shuttered. In interviews with responders who had attempted self-induced abortions, an apparent trend was financial barriers paired with at least one other barrier to access. Common methods included using misoprostol, a non-surgical medical abortion pill, herbal remedies, blunt trauma, hormone pills, or using drugs and alcohol.

While the reasons for high numbers of attempted self-abortions are multifaceted, at least one of them could change. HB2 is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court, in the Whole Women's Health v. Cole case, which marks the first major abortion-related case considered by the court in nearly a decade. The case takes issue with two provisions of HB2: one requiring abortion clinics to effectively meet the building, safety, and staffing requirements of hospital operating rooms; and another requiring physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital 30 miles from where the procedure is performed.

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A decision to uphold the laws could mean a small number of clinics for millions of reproductive-age Texas women, leaving vast portions of the state vacant of any clinic.