Dominican women play (abortion) doctor

What better way to ring in the New Year — a year in which we can only hope our next president will battle the recently instated “provider conscience” law, which limits women’s access to contraceptives and abortion — than to consider the extreme lengths women will go to in order to obtain an abortion. (Yay, woo, it’s always a party here at Broadsheet!)
Today, in response to a new Planned Parenthood study, the New York Times reports on how women from stridently antiabortion cultures often end their pregnancies through desperate, and dangerous, means: taking a punch to the stomach, intentionally falling down the stairs, knocking back a homemade abortion-inducing concoction or illegally taking the prescription drug misoprostol, which is FDA-approved as an abortifacient when taken with RU-486.
We’ve written before about how the latter, the other abortion drug, is often used as a result of barriers that are economic, cultural or practical (say, the nearest clinic is a three-hour drive away). Now, the Planned Parenthood study (PDF) further explores this interesting tangle of causes, specifically among Dominican women in New York and Santo Domingo. Most basically, a non-surgical termination is often preferred because it makes the abortion seem less, well, abortion-y. Or, as Dr. Mark Rosing, who has formally studied the issue, put it to the Times: “It turns an abortion into a natural process and makes it look like a miscarriage.”
Not to mention, in intimate communities where abortion is strongly stigmatized, privately handling the issue at home is far favored to walking into the local abortion clinic in broad daylight. There are plenty of other factors that keep Dominican and other immigrant women from visiting a clinic or hospital, including a lack of trust in the healthcare system, and, for illegal immigrants, the fear of being turned in by their doctor and deported.
The report concludes: “Generally, women seemed to see inducing the termination of pregnancy, or abortions, as a part of the reality of their lives, whether they lived in the Dominican Republic where abortion is illegal (at the time of this publication) or in New York where it is legal.”
This can all amount to a very dangerous game of doctor — just take a gander at misoprostol’s potential side effects: “rupture of the uterus, severe bleeding and shock.” Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health told the Times, “We do worry because we don’t know where women are getting the instructions from. We imagine that there is misinformation on how to take it, which is why it could be hit or miss.”
I’d hate to kick off Broadsheet’s 2009 on such a negative note, so take heart: Planned Parenthood aims to use the study’s findings to develop “a new language and framework for sexual and reproductive health that is specific to Dominican women … and, ultimately, improve the sexual and reproductive education and health care that [they] receive.”

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