Shortly after the Texas Senate voted Friday night to pass a sweeping abortion ban that could shutter 37 of the state’s 42 abortion service providers, Erick Erickson tweeted a celebratory link to a wire coat hanger supplier with the message to “liberals” and, presumably, the women of Texas: “Go bookmark this site now.” (Erickson has since deleted the tweet, but you can view it here.)
To Erickson, a conservative commentator and outspoken reproductive rights opponent (who also happens to think that working women are “against nature“), dangerous, self-administered abortions are simply hilarious.
Hilarious — and largely a fiction cooked up by reproductive rights advocates, Erickson is quick to add. In a Monday post addressing the negative response to his tweet, Erickson referenced a report from the antiabortion group Michigan Right to Life stating that in 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade guaranteed women a constitutional right to abortion, “only” 39 women had died as a result of illegally obtained and self-administered abortions, leading Erickson to call the dangers of illegal abortion “more legend than reality.”
While the number of reported deaths in 1972 may be accurate (although 39 dead women is still 39 dead women, and thousands more died trying to end unwanted pregnancies in previous decades), there is quite a lot of data that Erickson chose to leave out about 1972. Like how more than 100,000 women were forced to seek out an illegal or self-induced abortion that same year, as a 2003 report from the Guttmacher Institute notes:
Even in the early 1970s, when abortion was legal in some states, a legal abortion was simply out of reach for many. Minority women suffered the most: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 1972 alone, 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced procedures, 39 of whom died.
Or that from 1972 to 1974, the mortality rate due to illegal abortion for “nonwhite women was 12 times that for white women.” Or that more access to abortion and reproductive healthcare — not less — is what finally reduced these numbers.
And that is exactly what is at stake once again in Texas and elsewhere in the country, as many others have already argued.
As the Guttmacher report indicates, low-income women and women of color in places without meaningful access to reproductive healthcare or abortion services are the most vulnerable to these dangers, which is why, already, there is a growing concern that women in Texas may begin turning to illegally obtained abortion-inducing pills or other self-induced alternatives in the wake of the new law.
Far from “hysteria and hyperbole,” these dangers are real. Women’s lives are on the line, and there’s nothing imagined — or funny — about it.