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10 States Where Abortion Is Virtually Illegal for Some Women

Thanks to increasingly restrictive state laws, we're seeing a return to pre-Roe back-alley abortions and criminal treatment of women.

In recent years, abortion restrictions on the state level have made abortion harder to access and harder to afford, making it just as inaccessible to many women as it would be if it were outright illegal.

As pro-choicers have long argued, abortion bans don’t stop abortion so much as drive it underground. Thousands of women were admitted to hospitals every year for septic abortions when the procedure was illegal, either from unsafe back-alley providers or their own amateur attempts at home. 

Abortion is a legal right today. But thanks to increasingly restrictive state and local laws and overzealous law enforcement, we are seeing a return to pre- Roe back-alley abortions and increasingly criminal treatment of women. Here are 10 states where abortion laws are putting women’s health and freedom in danger: 

1) Idaho. Even though the constitutional right to abortion has been established for 38 years, a woman in Idaho was  arrested and charged for aborting her pregnancy. The woman bought some drugs online to terminate her pregnancy, and was ratted out by an acquaintance who disapproves of a woman’s right to choose. Even though the rat is technically on the wrong side of the constitutional determinations regarding this question, she got her way. The woman in question was arrested because of Idaho’s recent ban on post-20-week abortions, even though she claims to have believed she was only 14 weeks along, which could be true, if she wasn’t seeing a doctor during this time. 

Most anti-choicers claim they want to jail abortion providers, not women who have abortions, but it’s telling that the very first person to be charged under this new trend of states banning abortion at 20 weeks was not a doctor, but the woman who actually terminated her pregnancy. 

Idaho has seen a rapid decline in abortion providers, from seven in 2005 to four today. Lack of access could drive more women to these drastic measures. 

2) Iowa. Iowa’s doing better on the numbers; unlike in most states, the number of providers has grown, from nine to 11. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not dangerous for women in Iowa.  

Think being charged for a crime for having an abortion is scary? A woman in Iowa was arrested (not, thankfully, prosecuted) for merely  thinking about abortion.  Christine Taylor accidentally fell down some stairs and went for treatment at the hospital. While telling the nurse about her personal problems, a common enough situation at a hospital, Taylor let on that she had briefly considered abortion early in her pregnancy. The nurse called the cops, claiming the accident was an attempt at self-abortion. Taylor suffered three weeks of purgatory before the D.A. dropped the charges, but the fact remains that a woman was arrested and charges were considered on the grounds that she’d thought about exercising her constitutional rights.  

3) Utah. As Michelle Goldberg explained in the Daily Beast, no woman’s story is too heart-rending for anti-choice zealots not to try to put her in jail for attempting an abortion. A pregnant 17-year-old who lived without electricity or running water in rural Utah, who may have been exploited by an older man and who certainly had no way to get to a doctor or pay for an abortion, paid a man $150 to beat her in the stomach. 

The closest provider to the girl was a long drive away in Salt Lake City; there’s a total of seven providers in the whole state. Even though the abortion didn’t work, she was charged with criminal solicitation for murder. The charges were thrown out, because abortion is still not legally considered murder, but with many states passing 20-week bans on abortion, we can expect to see similar cases prosecuted with charges that could actually stick.  

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