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

The "self-help" abortions advocated by antiestablishment women do sometimes result in deaths. As recently as 1994, there was a report of a young woman who died as a result of attempting to abort with pennyroyal tea despite symptoms that she had an ectopic pregnancy. But this was not a case of a massive attack on the reproductive tract; this woman was using what she thought was a safe, "gentle," and "natural" means of killing her fetus and prompting her body to expel it. Such an attempt is a far cry from Drano douches and rusty coathangers.

Why is it that some women, with legal abortion readily available, and with information on "self-help" abortions available with just a little poking about, will viciously attack their own pregnant bodies, or allow someone else to do so? To say that they were simply trying to dislodge an unwanted fetus is facile; there are far safer, less painful means of trying to get rid of a fetus. There is obviously something else going on in these abortion attempts.

The most coherent explanation for these self-mutilative abortions is evident in the very damage that they do to the woman's body. These self-abortion attempts are most likely manifestations of self-injury, a phenomenon commonly seen in women (and occasionally men) with certain types of mental illness.

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