A woman's access to an abortion is a constantly defended right throughout the United States. But where you live can have a big impact on whether or not an abortion is an easy service for a woman to get. And for some women, limited access to abortion care in their region is propelling them to take drastic measures to ensure they—or those close to them—can terminate their pregnancy if they wish.
But as with many desperate decisions, comes dire consequences. Such was the case for Jennifer Ann Whalen, a mother from Pennsylvania, who was sentenced to serve anywhere from 12 to 18 months in prison for providing her 16-year-old daughter with miscarriage-inducing pills. In addition to the prison time, Whalen was fined $1,000 and given 40 community service hours to fulfill. The reason for the sentence is a Pennsylvania state law which mandates all abortions must by performed by licensed physicians.
Whalen's daughter wished to end the pregnancy, so she ordered the 'abortion pills' online all the way from Europe. However, the use of the pills, which are illegal in Pennsylvania and a few other states, was a last ditch effort. Whalen and her daughter live in a rural area of Pennsylvania, and the closest abortion provider was over 70 miles away. On top of the hefty travel time needed for her daughter to reach an abortion clinic, As you might expect, taking the European-imported pills led to her daughter experiencing some severe cramping and bleeding, which landed her in the hospital.
This woman's sentence is demonstrative of the importance of having legal, safe abortion care available to women no matter their zip code—if abortion care had been more readily available, perhaps they would not have felt the need to seek out other methods to end the unwanted pregnancy.