The Distressing New Trend of ‘DIY Abortion’
'This is a tragedy, not just for the millions of babies who won't be born, but for millions of women whose lives will be forever changed'
At a time that unborn children are dismissed by many in liberal circles and in the media — even talked about as mere “clumps of cells” — it’s not surprising that DIY (“do it yourself”) abortions are on the rise.
A recent analysis of Google searches by the BBC found that global online searches for abortion pills have more than doubled in the past decade.
Accordingly, new resources are popping up now to help women end their pregnancies without counseling or medical input — including the self-managed abortion, believe it or not.
Safe and Supported (SASS), an offshoot of a group called Women Help Women, “provides information about the safe use of abortion pills to end an unwanted pregnancy without a clinician, including access to skilled bilingual counselors in English or Spanish through a secure portal,” according to the Our Bodies, Ourselves website.
Self-induced abortions are nothing new, to be sure. But the easy ability now to buy pills online and share medical advice via online WhatsApp groups are fueling the DIY abortion trend — especially among women who are aiming to sidestep legal barriers to abortion, according to the BBC.
"Modern technology and developments in pharmaceuticals are propelling a new trend where women are attempting to terminate their own pregnancies," said Catherine Glenn Foster, head of Americans United for Life, a pro-life legal advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., in a statement. "This is a tragedy — not just for the millions of babies who won't be born — but for the millions of women whose lives will be forever changed."
Having had a horrific abortion experience herself at age 19 — and regretting that decision ever since — Foster warns and helps others.
"The DIY abortion, with all its inherent issues and harms, is a natural next step for a society as abortion-friendly as our own," she told LifeZette by email. "When women and girls are already accustomed to the idea of abortion as a solution to an unexpected pregnancy, it makes logical sense [to them] that the easier it is to obtain, the better." She added, "If we order entertainment from iTunes and Netflix, gifts from Amazon, and takeout from UberEats, then why not an abortion pill?"
The problem extends far beyond our borders, as Foster noted.
"The same trends hold around the world, with more abortion-restrictive countries seeing even more searches for DIY abortions," she explained.
That's especially troubling for women trying to hide pregnancies and abortions in foreign countries where access to emergency medical care is not available.
"The increased risks of DIY chemical abortions, such as hemorrhage, sepsis, and missed ectopic pregnancy, as opposed even to surgical abortions, can lead to even more devastating consequences," said Foster.
While modern technology has made our world more interconnected and efficient in many ways, it has made us less patient and less reflective as a society — and that comes with a heavy emotional price.
"Modern technology has exponentially increased the amount of information available to us on a minute-by-minute basis. That comes as a blessing but also a curse," said Foster.
"So women and girls with unplanned pregnancies seek what seems to be the easy answer, the quick fix," she continued. "When, with a few quick clicks, a pack of abortion pills can be on its way to our mailbox, it can seem preferable to confronting the difficult but needed conversation, and easier than the significant changes that come with a child. But that same ease also brings with it risks."
She added that "for some women, the DIY abortion may serve as a way to avoid some tough realities, but those women may be blindsided by the harms that can follow."
Still, Foster does not stand in judgment. Her past forbids it.
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"Women with unexpected pregnancies need to know that there is someone sitting beside them, willing to just be there and to help in any way," she explained. "Sometimes that means being there while they tell a partner or a mom. Sometimes it means information. Sometimes it means concrete resources."
Her willingness to help women facing a crisis pregnancy does not stop there.
Pregnant women need to be reminded of the precious new life they suddenly may be carrying.
"As appropriate, I would offer life-affirming hope, encouragement, and empowerment," she said. "I would share stories of other moms who have succeeded in similar situations, and help a woman find her own path forward. And I would make sure she knows that this isn't just a five-minute conversation or a five-month commitment."
As for the "safe and supported" DIY abortion movement, remember the disturbing mantra that shows up online when women search for information on this: "Millions of women have safely used abortion pills to end an unwanted pregnancy without a clinician." But this "promises" so much, while also leaving out vast swaths of information, advice, wisdom and counseling — at a time that pregnant women need to be reminded of the precious new life they suddenly may be carrying.
Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.