Woman Sentenced To Over A Year In Prison For Getting Her Daughter 'Abortion Pills'

When the closest abortion provider is 74 miles away, women can feel forced to seek out alternative abortion methods.

Abortion pill

(Image credit: Archives)

A woman's access to an abortion (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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.


This Act Could Put an End to Anti-Abortion Legislation (opens in new tab)

2013 Was a Rough Year for Abortion Rights (opens in new tab)

Don't Mess With Texas Women (opens in new tab)

Yet Another Blow to Birth Control Coverage (opens in new tab)

I'm an Associate Editor at the Business of Fashion, where I edit and write stories about the fashion and beauty industries. Previously, I was the brand editor at Adweek, where I was the lead editor for Adweek's brand and retail coverage. Before my switch to business journalism, I was a writer/reporter at PEOPLE.com, where I wrote news posts, galleries and articles for PEOPLE magazine's website. My work has been published on TheAtlantic.com, ELLE.com, MarieClaire.com, PEOPLE.com, GoodHousekeeping.com and in Every Day with Rachael Ray. It has been syndicated by Cosmopolitan.com, TIME.com, TravelandLeisure.com and GoodHousekeeping.com, among other publications. Previously, I've worked at VOGUE.com, ELLE.com, and MarieClaire.com.