There Is a Secret Network Providing Home Abortions

These women are working outside the law and medical establishment to meet the demand for safe, cheap abortions.

A demonstrator holds up a banner saying "Keep Abortion Legal" in front of Trump International Hotel and Tower during the second annual Women's March in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, U.S. on Saturday, January 20, 2018. (Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
Corbis via Getty Images

There is a network of women who have learned to provide home abortions, working outside the bounds of the legal and medical establishment to meet an increasing demand.

Starting with about 45 people, this group has since grown to around 200 women across the United States. There is no complete record of how many pregnancies they’ve ended, but according to interviews with providers in the network, the conservative estimate is more than 2,000 in the past three years.

Journalist Lizzie Presser, in an article for the California Sunday Magazine and republished by The Guardian, writes that many of the women in the network have studied as midwives or doulas or nurses. Some women needed an abortion before, or had a friend who needed one, so they decided to learn how to provide it themselves. Many of the providers are low-income women who feel frustrated by their own experiences.

Clients use this network when they cannot afford an abortion by a physician, they want privacy for a procedure that can be considered unacceptable to other family members, or they prefer home medicine to conventional medicine.

Presser writes that the providers are continuing the long history of female home practitioners in the U.S., but they are also part of a global trend to expand access to abortion by training midwives and community health workers. But in the United States, these women risk imprisonment and fines. Since 2000, at least 15 women have been arrested and criminally investigated for ending their own pregnancies and six for aiding someone who did.

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