Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New York Times Examines Self-Induced Abortion in Dominican Communities

A recent
New York Times article
examinines the number of Dominican women who choose to end unintended pregnancies through unconventional methods. Studies conducted by reproductive health groups uncovered a trend of self-induced abortions. A Planned Parenthood study interviewed 1,200 women, mostly Latinas, in New York, Boston and San Francisco and found reports of women throwing themselves down stairs and drinking homemade potions to terminate a pregnancy.

According to researchers, the use of a prescription drug called misoprostol is the most common method used to induce abortion. Misoprostol, a drug used for ulcers, is also used in conjunction with mifepristone (RU-486 or the abortion pill) to safely terminate a pregnancy. However, the drug can be dangerous if taken without proper instructions. The reasons why women choose to take these potential health risks vary from financial to cultural. Dominican communities tend to be tight knit and conservative, causing many women to prefer the privacy of alternative methods to seeing a medical professional. While some of these methods may be dangerous or ineffective, the information passed from generation to generation is generally trusted more than the medical community.

A lack of medical insurance or uncertain immigration status may also be a deterrent to seeking medical care. It is imperative to let women know that there is safe, private access to abortion care and to make sure that anti-choice forces do impair that access. We must also work to reduce the stigma of abortion so that women do not feel pressured into having abortion without medical guidance and to improve public funding for abortion care.

However, the Times article brings to light another troubling issue, the prosecution of women who have used misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy. This could set a very dangerous precedent. Policing pregnant women is not the solution, improving resources and compassionate, private care is.

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