Knowing all of this — that banning abortion will not make it go away and that without doctors to charge, law enforcement will wind up targeting the poorest, most marginalized women — our battle over legalized abortion seems misguided.
The rise of abortion drugs simply throws into sharper relief what we have always known: Abortions rates are driven not by legality but by economics.
In Brazil, where abortion is all but banned, experts estimate there are about a million illegal abortions each year; around half of them are induced using abortion drugs.
Efforts to restrict access to misoprostol will fail not simply because it costs pennies to make, but also because it saves lives.
But this hasn’t stopped governments from tasking them with trying.
There are two ways to enforce laws against abortion: prosecute doctors or prosecute women.They say that pregnant women will resort to unsafe illegal abortions if there is no legal option.Opponents, identifying themselves as pro-life, contend that individual human life begins at fertilization, and therefore abortion is the immoral killing of an innocent human being.Americans should care what happens under Latin American abortion bans not just for the sake of the women who live there but also because they provide a glimpse of what could be our future.The fight over abortion includes the passing of laws intended to restrict access. Wade legalized abortion, states have enacted more than 1,200 anti-abortion laws — more if one counts federal regulations such as the Trump administration’s recent decision to deny family planning funds to organizations that provide abortions.But as we inch closer to potentially allowing states to recriminalize the procedure — with laws that ban abortions after six weeks, as in Iowa, and even seek to effectively ban the use of abortion-inducing drugs — we would do well to look past our southern border to consider what happens when abortion actually is illegal. Abortifacient drugs have become so readily available in places like Chile and El Salvador that it has become impossible to enforce abortion bans.That was also the case in Ireland, where by some accounts, before last month’s legalization vote, at least two Irish women a day were self-administering abortions using pills.Historically, as well as in most countries today, abortion prosecutions typically target the doctor.This practice is endorsed by today’s anti-abortion movement, which regularly proclaims that women are abortion’s “second victims,” deserving compassion rather than punishment. When no doctor is involved, the woman who uses abortion drugs might seem less like a “second victim” and more like a criminal.But this revolution has come with unexpected consequences — for the doctor-patient relationship and for law enforcement.Whether we’re marching with coat-hanger posters or passing laws that outlaw the procedure earlier and earlier, we fight over abortion in the United States as if we know what will happen if it’s banned.