According to January 17, 2019 ReWire.News story by Tina Vasquez, immigrant women in the US, especially undocumented women of color, are often forced to rely on self-induced abortion methods because going to hospitals or getting any kind of reproductive health care services could get them deported.
Although abortion is legal in the United States, undocumented women often do not feel safe at clinics. As Vasquez reported, one immigrant woman, Blanca Borrego, had lived in Texas for more than ten years when she had an unwanted pregnancy and proceeded to look for a gynecologist at a clinic. While waiting, the staff at the clinic called deputies on her and she was arrested in front of her daughters.
Another case was that of Purvi Patel, an Indian woman living in Indiana. Afraid of getting taken into custody, she opted to take self-managed abortion drugs to end her pregnancy. When she suffered heavy vaginal bleeding afterward, she decided to go see doctors and told them she had had a miscarriage, declaring that the fetus was stillborn and she had put it in a dumpster. When the police found out that she had taken drugs to induce an abortion, she was charged with and convicted of an illegal abortion. Ultimately, she was sent to jail for 18 months.
“Feticide laws designed to protect pregnant women from violence are now used to punish them for the termination of a pregnancy. Patel actually wasn’t the first woman of color in Indiana charged under the state’s feticide law,” Vasquez wrote.
A 2018 study by the Guttmacher Institute found out that 39% of Latinas were afraid of seeking help for abortion at health-care clinics, and another study stated that one-third of people didn’t know that abortion was legal in their state.
Since health-care services in general are very limited for immigrant women, lack of access to safe abortions is not the only issue they suffer. They are also less likely to receive other preventive services such as Pap tests to prevent cervical cancer, mammograms, and even routine STI testing.
As of February 2019, there has been no mainstream media coverage on this topic and there are only a few articles in the alternative media that discuss it.
Source: Tina Vasquez, “Self-Induced Abortion’s Risks Could Leave Immigrant Women Choiceless,” Rewire.News, January 17, 2019, https://rewire.news/article/2019/01/17/self-induced-abortion-risks-could-leave-immigrant-women-choiceless/.
Student Researcher: Diana Barcelata (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)