Abortion by shooting

A pregnant woman in Virginia shot herself in the stomach to induce an abortion.

Published March 2, 2006 10:46PM (EST)

The Associated Press reports that "a woman who told police she had been shot in the abdomen was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with illegally inducing an abortion by shooting herself, resulting in the death of her full-term baby girl." According to family members, Tammy Skinner, a 22-year-old single mother struggling to support two children ages 4 and 1, has been depressed for some time. Her father expressed to reporters that his daughter was sick but that he hadn't realized how sick, and that she needed help. If convicted she could face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine, the maximum sentence for self-inducing abortion in Virginia. The AP reports that "a murder charge could not be considered unless the baby had breathed on her own before dying."

There is no question that Skinner, as her family said, needed help. We do not know whether she had tried to obtain a legal abortion. But even if she had sought an abortion provider, having an abortion in Virginia, which received an "F" on NARAL's Report Card, is hardly a walk in the park. State law subjects women seeking abortions to biased counseling requirements and mandatory delays; limits insurance coverage of the procedure; and greatly restricts low-income women, like Skinner, from receiving public funding for abortion.

The timing of this incident is frightening. In the last week alone, we have learned about an increasing number of women turning to self-induced abortions and considering do-it-yourself abortions, a Mississippi House committee passing an abortion ban and affordable contraception getting hard to come by at Planned Parenthood.

Even while the Roe decision is the law of the land, women all over the country are finding it more difficult, and becoming more desperate as they try, to exercise their reproductive rights.

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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