It has been well documented that reproductive health advocates struggled with the passage of health care reform in the United States earlier this year. Health reform may have signalled a relief for millions of uninsured Americans, but the victory came at the expense of essential abortion provisions for some of the country’s most vulnerable groups.
President Obama imposed restrictions on abortion – banning the use of federal funds in Medicaid and insurance exchanges for the procedure – in order to gain a majority of votes to put the bill into legislation.
The health advocates who campaigned for access to safe, legal and affordable abortion care for poor and uninsured women warned that the amendment would not reduce abortions, but increase financial burdens on women and even put them in grave physical danger.
There is evidence that suggests disproportionate barriers face immigrants and women of colour seeking access to reproductive care. And now, experts say abortion restrictions are leading these women to take matters into their own hands.
Whereas wealthy women can pay out of pocket for private abortion services, poor women are resorting to potentially life-threatening methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies – throwing themselves down staircases, asking partners to punch them in the stomach and using the drug misoprostol.
In a recent Ibis Reproductive Health survey of 1,500 women in New York, Boston, San Francisco and along the Texas-Mexico border, about four percent of ever-pregnant women admitted to using the drug or some other method to self-induce an abortion.
With harmful restrictions on reproductive choice, women are putting themselves at even greater risk in order to obtain abortions. And it is becoming obvious that the burden lies with the low-income woman to find a way to personally fund the procedure or sacrifice her health, or even her life, in an attempt to exercise reproductive freedom.