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A Mother Landed in Jail for Trying to Help Her Daughter. And She Might Not Be the Last.

Jennifer Dalven,
Director, Reproductive Freedom Project,
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September 19, 2014

Earlier this month, a judge sentenced a Pennsylvania mother to up to a year and a half in prison for helping her 16-year-old daughter end a pregnancy by purchasing abortion medication online. The mother, who has a low-paying job, ordered the medication online because there was no health center that provides abortions nearby, and she lacked health insurance to pay for an abortion at a hospital. She was sentenced after pleading guilty to performing an illegal abortion.

My heart goes out to this mother, who was doing the best she could to do right by her daughter. But what really keeps me up at night is the knowledge that because of the barrage of restrictions politicians are passing, more and more families are facing the same dilemma.

To be sure, I wish this mother and her daughter did not have to resort to ending her pregnancy without the help of medical professionals. I have no doubt that they wished there was another way too. But faced with the prospect of continuing the pregnancy and inducing the abortion on their own, the family did what thousands and thousands of women did before Roe. They took matters into their own hands. And they won't be the last family to do so.

It's no secret why this is happening. Across the country, extreme politicians have passed a rash of laws that single out doctors and health centers that provide abortions in a transparent effort to prevent a woman from getting a safe and legal abortion.

In Texas, these types of laws threaten to leave only seven clinics for the more than 5.5 million women of reproductive age in the state. Similar laws threaten to shutter the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, all but two of the clinics in Alabama, and force women in Wisconsin to wait up to 10 weeks to get an abortion. Louisiana and Oklahoma recently passed similar laws and we can expect to see even more states attempt to pass these laws in the next legislative session.

Pennsylvania, where the family lives, has a law that requires a woman seeking an abortion to make an extra, medically unnecessary trip to the clinic before she can get an abortion. Just last week in Missouri, state legislators overrode a governor's veto to institute a 3-day forced delay for abortion, even though Missouri voters clearly said they don't want this law. The mandatory delay applies no matter how long a woman has considered her decision before coming to the health center. Now, a woman will have to wait 72 hours for an abortion, after talking to a healthcare professional, no matter how firm she is in her decision.

Leading medical groups, like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have opposed these laws. So why are politicians still passing them? To shame women and abortion providers and end access to safe, legal abortion.

Sadly this means this mother likely won't be last mother to face a difficult dilemma when she's only trying to help her daughter.

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