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Why Did They Seek Abortions There? How Abortion Bans Threaten Women's Lives

Written by Patty Skuster and Susan Schewel for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

It became tragically clear this week that hurdles to safe, legal abortion can prove life threatening. In West Philadelphia, Karnamaya Mongar lost her life in the horrific facility where Dr. Kermit Gosnell killed and maimed immigrant women and women of color seeking to end unwanted pregnancies. She is one of tens of thousands of poor women who die every year at the hands of butchers and quacks. We sometimes comfort ourselves with the thought that those deaths don’t happen here. But clearly they can.

Around the world — even here in Pennsylvania — women face obstacles to legitimate medical care, including preventive services like contraception, prenatal care and safe abortion care. However, such obstacles — legal and financial barriers, social stigma or language barriers — do not affect all women equally. 

It is poor women, young women, women of color and immigrant women who bear the burden of these restrictions, particularly federal bans on funding for abortion care. These bans – such as the Hyde Amendment that affects Medicaid and the international Helms Amendment that affects our foreign aid – exacerbate the circumstances that lead women to facilities like the West Philadelphia clinic in the first place. Read more