When Abortion Restrictions Mean Jail Time

When Abortion Restrictions Mean Jail Time September 9, 2014

A Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for obtaining so-called abortion pills online and providing them to her teenage daughter to end her pregnancy.

Yes, you read that right.

Jennifer Ann Whalen, 39, of Washingtonville, a single mother who works as a nursing home aide, pleaded guilty in August to obtaining the miscarriage-inducing pills from an online site in Europe for her daughter, 16, who did not want to have the child.

Whalen was sentenced on Friday by Montour County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary Norton to serve 12 months to 18 months in prison for violating a state law that requires abortions to be performed by physicians.

Why did Whalen obtain abortion pills online rather than taking her daughter to a clinic for an abortion?

Whalen told authorities there was no local clinic available to perform an abortion, and her daughter did not have health insurance to cover a hospital abortion, the Press Enterprise newspaper of Bloomsburg reported.

. . .

The closest abortion clinic to Whalen’s home is about 74 miles away in Harrisburg.

Let’s follow this logic, shall we? First, make a time-sensitive critical but safe medical procedure extremely difficult to obtain. Second, put people in jail if they try to find a way to perform the procedure on their own. Right.

It’s not surprising that, in our era of abortion restrictions, women like Whalen and her daughter would be turning to the twenty-first-century equivalent of coat hanger abortions. Fortunately, the ready online availability of the abortion pill makes today’s “back alley” abortions safer than those of the past. Unfortunately, they remain just as illegal, as Whalen was reminded this month.

When it comes down to it, these laws are not so much about protecting women from medical malpractice as they are about punishing them for their lack of options.

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