A Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for obtaining European abortion pills online and providing them to her teenage daughter who wanted to end her pregnancy.
Jennifer Ann Whalen, 39, pleaded guilty to violating a Pennsylvania state law that abortions must be performed by a physician. The single mother and nursing home aide claimed she did not have insurance to cover a hospital abortion and the closest clinic was 74 miles away in Harrisburg. So she turned to the next best thing: miscarriage-inducing pills from an online site in Europe.
The only problem with ordering medicine online is… well, it’s pretty dangerous. Whalen’s 16-year-old daughter ended up experiencing severe cramping and bleeding after taking the pills. Two weeks after administering the abortion pills, Whalen rushed her daughter to the Geisinger Medical Center where she was treated for an “incomplete abortion and a urinary tract infection”. After doctors figured out her self-prescribed abortion plan, the authorities were alerted and two years later, the single mother was officially charged with brewing Pennsylvania state law.
Whalen was sentenced on Friday to 9-18 months in prison for providing her daughter with a DIY abortion. In addition to her jail sentence, Whalen will also be forced to pay a fine of $1,000 and perform 40 hours of community service.
While Whalen undoubtedly put her daughter in danger by ordering medicine online instead of seeing a physician for a “proper abortion”, the case highlights what pro-choicers have been saying all along: legislation passed to restrict a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy disproportionately impacts poorer, rural women. Turns out the Republicans’ plans to close down clinics and place restrictions on abortions may be leading people to back alley abortions … or, in this case, sketchy European websites.
There seems to be only one solution – and it doesn’t involve providing access to safe, legal abortions and affordable health insurance to cover the cost. Next time a woman experiences severe cramping and bleeding from pills purchased online, she should just avoid the hospital and bleed out in bed. Problem solved, no jail time involved.