The New York Times just published a fascinatingly tragic piece entitled The Return of the D.I.Y Abortion. The article looks at Google searches for inducing an abortion at home and for 2015 the author found 700,000 related Google searches in the United States. Searching for this information was more common in states with more barriers to safe, affordable abortion care and the state with the most searches has one abortion clinic – Mississippi. Google searches for self-induced abortions jumped in 2011 and this parallels the increase in restrictive legislation.
While some sites do have accurate information about misoprostol using this medication on your own is potentially hazardous (illegalities aside) as an accurate gestational age is required and the failure rate is much higher than the traditional misoprostol-mifepristone regimen. Also, there is a significant risk that the medication you receive from the kind of pharmacy that supplies misoprostol without a prescription might be suspect.
There is an increasing proliferation of sites that focus on “herbal” abortions and what women find about self-inducing abortion with herbs is potentially very dangerous (professional tip Vice, there is no “pro” to a D.I.Y. “herbal” abortion, only cons) and of course completely unstudied. I don’t count the personal musings of a third-generation vegetarian holistic gynecologist as supporting evidence.
Many of the sites repeat the same perversion of information, some even tricked out with slide shows like 10 Superfoods to Induce Abortion! Since we are so used to these slide shows for the 10 Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes! or the 10 Super Foods You Can Find at the 7-11! they seem more valid. However, none of the “methods” proposed are effective and most represents such a wild misunderstanding of science it is hard to know where to begin. For example, this piece of “information” is from New Kids-Center, a “health information site” with a handy “How to have a miscarriage” page.
Studies that link a food with miscarriage are not guides to how to induce an abortion.
That women look to self-abort is not surprising. Getting an abortion in many states is not only financially burdensome, but the hoops women have to jump through with appointments and ultrasounds can easily be overwhelming. American women have admitted in studies to self-aborting (with very low success rates) and a recent survey suggests that between 1.7% and 4.1% of Texas women of reproductive age have attempted a home abortion.
We do have studies from other countries where there is no safe abortion on the methods (both unsuccessful and unsafe) that women use to self-induce. These are not “how to guides,” they are dire warnings.
Worldwide 1 in 10 women has an unsafe abortion and about 49,000 die every year and majority of these women who die are in countries where there is little access to high quality obstetrical care. If midwives and birth attendants have magical herbs to procure safe home abortions that have been suppressed by the Western medical patriarchy then why do so many women die from unsafe abortion?
The idea that there are safe plants or other botanicals for home abortion is a dangerous myth that kills thousands of women every year. Anyone who promotes the idea of a safe “herbal” abortion should be ashamed of themselves.