The notorious back-alley abortions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been used as a scare tactic by the abortion lobby for nearly half a century to keep abortion legal. If we outlaw abortion, they say, women will still have them—they’ll just go underground, resorting to dangerous alternatives outside of the clinic to have them.
The problem is, even though abortion remains widely legal and available in our country, according to a recent article from Mother Jones, the abortion underground is already very much alive, performing potentially thousands of illegal abortions each year with no real outcry from the abortion lobby.
The article, “Inside the Top-Secret Abortion Underground,” provides an in-depth look at a shadowy network of providers who perform illegal abortions across the country. The article cites increasing abortion restrictions as a primary force driving the abortion black market.
While states have indeed made unprecedented gains in enacting pro-life laws over the last several years, abortion is still widely available. Across the country, abortion remains legal after five months and in some states, it is legal through all nine.
Furthermore, in 2014, U.S. abortion facilities reported nearly 1 million abortions to the Guttmacher Institute, the pro-abortion research organization that was founded as Planned Parenthood’s research arm.
Mother Jones highlights Arizona as a state where abortion restrictions have increased, driving up the desire for self-induced abortions. But even with as much progress as Arizona has made in protecting the unborn, abortion remains prevalent there. In 2016, 13,170 abortions were reported to the Arizona Department of Health. That’s nearly 3,000 more than were performed there in 2006.
Where’s the Abortion Lobby Now?
So what’s really driving the abortion underground?
Farah Diaz-Tello, a lawyer for the “Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team,” tells Mother Jones, “It’s not all out of desperation.” Some women simply want to have a self-induced abortion at home, with an herbal regimen and (perhaps most bizarrely) with a spiritual ceremony.
According to Mother Jones, not all abortion advocates support the abortion underground. They worry about the legal and medical risks of the practice. But as controversial as the abortion underground might be within the abortion lobby, Mother Jones was only able to scrounge up a couple of people who were willing to question its safety in the article.
One was a Planned Parenthood abortionist who asked to remain anonymous. The other was an abortion advocate and California medical professor who questioned some of the abortion underground’s methods, but not the concept of self-induced abortion itself.
So where is the rest of the abortion industry? Where is NARAL? Maybe they have said something about the practice and I’ve missed it. But for a group that has been so obsessed with back-alley abortions, they should be out in front, vocally condemning the abortion underground as dangerous for women.
Apparently, NARAL’s priorities lie elsewhere. Instead of ensuring its own industry is living up to its proclaimed values of health, safety and legality, the abortion lobby is increasingly obsessed with harassing pregnancy centers, targeting them with bogus investigations, tone-deaf protests and unconstitutional legislation.
Meanwhile, potentially thousands of illegal abortions are being performed right under their noses.
A Primer on Back Alleys
In reality, the “back-alley abortion” has never been anything more than a trumped-up talking point for NARAL. In fact, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who co-founded NARAL and eventually became a pro-life advocate, admitted to fabricating the number of illegal abortions and maternal deaths before Roe v. Wade.
Contrary to the notion of a butcher with a coat hanger, according to Planned Parenthood in 1960, 90 percent of illegal abortions were performed by doctors. The abortion underground was certainly illicit, unethical and dangerous, but its influence was never quite as significant or as lethal as the abortion lobby claimed.
So what does today’s underground abortion industry look like? Code names and burner phones are just the start. Women are given herbs and illegally obtained drugs to poison their unborn babies. A manual vacuum aspiration device is used to remove the child. The women are told to lie if they wind up in the emergency room.
And at the end of the abortion? The woman’s records are destroyed, obliterating the abortionist’s last shred of accountability as well as any information the woman may need should she require follow-up care for hemorrhaging or other issues.
Tweet This: @MotherJones celebrates illegal #abortions. Where is @NARAL to cry foul when you need them? #prolife
And this is supposed to be in the name of women’s liberation. The events described in the article took place in the last few years, but they sound like 1971, or even the early 1800s when quack doctors would give women toxic herbs to kill their unborn babies.
Mother Jones explains how the professionalization of medicine in the mid-19th century eventually led to a more robust criminalization of abortion. Predictably, the article chalks this up to a gender war between mostly male physicians and female lay persons.
But the debate was so much more than that. It was a matter of both science and ethics. Up until the early 19th century, physicians and theologians alike largely believed in the “quickening doctrine,” the belief that the unborn child came to life when the mother first felt movement.
But scientific advancements, such as the theory of epigenesis—the belief that the embryo was created by the fusion of the gametes—eventually disproved quickening. For the rest of the 19th century, professional physicians—including women like Mary Dixon-Jones and Charlotte Lozier—would endeavor to educate the broader public about the beginning of human life and the wickedness of abortion.
Mother Jones only briefly mentions the quickening doctrine and entirely sidesteps the broader and much more substantive debate about the subject in order to discredit the modern-day medical profession and elevate the backward practices of the abortion underground.
The truth is, anyone who recognizes the science behind when life begins will have to confront the immorality of abortion head-on. And a Mother Jones article is apparently no place for that.
The Hippocratic Oath—and most notably its promise to “First do no harm”—is traditionally recognized as the universal moral code for the practice of good medicine. It would seem obvious that abortion, a practice that requires harm via the death of an unborn child, not only falls outside of that code, but stands in stark contradiction to it.
Despite the shrill claims of its advocates, abortion is not health care, but is in fact the enemy of it.
As “progressive” as the abortion industry may claim to be, they are only demonstrating how regressive they truly are.