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Self-Mutilation and Self-Abortion
What does this have to do with abortion?
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Dateline: 3/28/01

Observations on the traits and behaviors of people who self-harm are in keeping with the research by Nancy Howell Lee on women who sought and obtained pre-legalization abortions. She found that the women who attempted aggressive self-induced or other obviously dangerous abortions tended to be self-destructive, and to themselves view the abortion attempt as more of an attack on themselves than as an attempt to dislodge the fetus. Case reports I've read on self-induced abortion attempts also found that the women did not tend to perceive the fetus as "other," but as an embodiment of their own hated selves. In these cases, the attempt to self-abort was a bizarre attempt at self-destruction.

Given what we know about self-abuse, and about "coathanger" abortions, it is reasonable to conclude that aggressive and dangerous self-abortion attempts are best understood as a type of self-mutilation, and not as rational attempts to end an ill-timed pregnancy.

The best service we can do, therefore, to women who might attempt such abortions is to provide the best supportive and psychiatric care to self-injurers, and to ensure that professionals who work with these women are aware that a self-induced abortion might be attempted by these patients should they encounter an unintended or otherwise stressful pregnancy.

Legalizing abortion did nothing for these women; it merely swept the problem under the rug. We need to bring it back into the open and address it rationally and compassionately.

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