The Return of Back-Alley Abortions
by Michelle Goldberg
June 3, 2011 | 9:44pm

In states across the country, women are being arrested for the crime of ending their own pregnancies—though they have a constitutional right to do so in a doctor’s office. Michelle Goldberg on a worrisome new trend.

Underground abortions have returned to the United States, just as pro-choice activists have warned for years. And women have started going to jail for the crime of ending their own pregnancies, or trying to.

Article – Goldberg AbortionsCultura / Corbis

This week Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three from eastern Idaho, was arrested for self-inducing an abortion. According to the Associated Press, McCormack couldn’t afford a legal procedure, and so took pills that her sister had ordered online. For some reason, she kept the fetus, which police found after they were called by a disapproving acquaintance. She now faces up to five years in prison, as well as a $5,000 fine.

Idaho recently banned abortions after 20 weeks, and McCormack’s fetus was reportedly between five and six months old. But according to Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, under Idaho law, McCormack could have been arrested even if she’d been in her first trimester because self-induced abortion is illegal in all circumstances. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an 8- or 10- or 12-week abortion,” says Kolbi-Molinas. “If you do what you could get lawfully in a doctor’s office—what you have a constitutional right to access in a doctor’s office—they can throw you in jail and make you a convicted felon.”

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