Do-it-yourself surgical abortions?

It has come to this: A blogger posts actual instructions.

Lynn Harris
March 1, 2006 8:52PM (UTC)

Via Boing Boing: Responding to the latest news out of South Dakota, a blogger named Molly, who is not a medical practitioner, has posted actual instructions for do-it-yourself surgical abortions. (Warning: Do not read the instructions in full unless you're one of those people who loves those reality surgery shows.)

More precisely, Molly's instructions are geared for those who would set up their own "underground" abortion clinics for women who need them. She writes: "In the 1960s and early 1970s, when abortions were illegal in many places and expensive to get, an organization called Jane stepped up to the plate in the Chicago area. Jane initially hired an abortion doctor, but later they did the abortions themselves. They lost only one patient in 13,000 -- a lower death rate than that of giving live birth. The biggest obstacle they had, though, was the fact that until years into the operation, they thought of abortion as something only a doctor could do, something only the most trained specialist could perform without endangering the life of the woman.


"They were deceived -- much like you have probably been deceived. An abortion, especially for an early pregnancy, is a relatively easy procedure to perform. And while I know, women of South Dakota, that you never asked for this, now is the time to learn how it is done. There is no reason you should be beholden to doctors -- especially in a state where doctors have been refusing to perform them, forcing the state's only abortion clinic to fly doctors in from elsewhere.

"No textbooks or guides existed at that time to help them, and the equipment was hard to find. This is no longer true. For under $2000, any person with the inclination to learn could create a fully functioning abortion setup allowing for both vacuum aspiration and dilation/curettage abortions. If you are careful and diligent, and have a good grasp of a woman's anatomy you will not put anyone's health or life in danger, even if you have not seen one of these procedures performed."

We're not posting this because we necessarily recommend, advise or endorse publicizing such information, but because it makes us think: Will -- or has -- it really come to this? Broadsheet has noted that illegal abortion (performed on oneself or by an "untrained practitioner") already seems to be on the rise. (Few of these are surgical, but still: Women are already desperate.) Is spreading this kind of information irresponsible and dangerous, or -- given that some women could turn to this method -- could it increase their safety if they do? (This is analogous to the argument for clean-needle-exchange programs.) Or is it best viewed merely as a "Seriously, things could be this bad" statement? What do you think? Don't answer without reading the slew of interesting comments -- many, but by no means all, positive -- on Molly's post.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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