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Self-Mutilation and Self-Abortion
They did happen. And they still happen.
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• Powerful image, but how true to life?
• 'Self-help' vs. self-harm
• Self-mutilation? What? Why?
• What does this have to do with abortion?
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Dateline: 3/28/01

In exploring the issue of dangerous self-abortion attempts, we have to take into account the fact that these self-abortion attempts very rare. Nancy Howell Lee's research (The Search for an Abortionist) found that dangerous self-abortions were attempted by about 2 percent of the women she surveyed. The Planned Parenthood conference estimated that dangerous amateur abortions (self-attempted or attempted by obviously unqualified others) accounted for perhaps 8 percent of illegal abortions.2

But even though the self-aborting woman was a rare case, advocates of legalization held them up as proof that society has an obligation to make professional abortion readily available.

We also have to take into account the shocking fact that such abortion attempts persist, even with legal abortion readily available.

The fact that dangerous self-induced abortions and amateur abortions persisted even after the legalization of abortion-on-demand is one of the dark and inexplicable secrets of the abortion advocacy movement.

The last tally of abortion mortality by the Centers for Disease Control was published in their 1996 Abortion Surveillance Summary. From 1972 through 1992, the CDC counted 90 illegal abortion deaths. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll set aside the issue of the accuracy of the CDC's numbers. The important fact is that amateur and self-induced abortions persist even after legalization. The question we must ask is, "Why?"

In 1982, CDC staffers Nancy Binkin, Julian Gold, and Willard Cates published "Illegal-Abortion Deaths in the United States: Why Are They Still Occurring?" in the May/June issue of Family Planning Perspectives. They noted that illegal abortions ranged from "self-help" abortions done by women who reject the medical establishment and teach one another home abortion methods as a bonding and empowerment exercise, to the stereotypical "coathanger" abortions. They concluded that women seek illegal abortions for "idiosyncratic" reasons, and dropped the issue.

2. 1955 Planned Parenthood Conference on Induced Abortion

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