If you are holding this book, you may be pregnant and may not want to be. You may have already decided to have an abortion, or you may still be considering your options. You may also feel worried, confused, frustrated, angry, or just plain scared.
That's understandable. While abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, in the past 20 years women's ability to terminate unplanned pregnancies has been steadily undermined. Since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, Medicaid funding for abortion has been cut or severely restricted in 33 states, putting the procedure out of reach for thousands of low-income women. Informed consent and parental notification and consent laws were ruled constitutional in 1992, and state-mandated lectures, waiting periods, and laws that require minors to tell their parents or go to court for a special hearing are now in force in 29 states.
Antichoice violence and lack of training for physicians have also resulted in fewer providers clinics and private doctors who perform abortions. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortion providers in the United States has dropped 18 percent since 1982. Across the country, 84 percent of counties have no provider, and only 13 percent of all medical residency programs make learning the procedure mandatory. Today, 1 woman in 10 drives over 50 miles to get to the nearest provider, and 1 in 20 drives over 100 miles. In 1992, the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project found that 20 percent of all women seeking an abortion in the United States were unable to get one, either because they couldn't find or get to a provider or because they didn't have the money.
As if practical problems were not enough, the difficulties of getting an abortion are often intensified by the social stigma and need for secrecy that continue to surround the procedure. Although abortion is a common experience in the United States, an estimated 1.3 million women terminate pregnancies every year if you are feeling alone and isolated, it car be like reinventing the wheel.
The Abortion Resource Handbook was conceived and written to provide women with the support and clear, practical information they need to gel an abortion regardless of their personal situation or the restrictive nature of the laws, lack of clinics, or level of antichoice violence in their state. My focus throughout the book is on demystifying current obstacles by letting women know what to expect and how to minimize any problems they encounter. Individual chapters have been reviewed by doctors, clinic administrators, and other prochoice professionals to ensure their accuracy. I have also tried to make the book as user-friendly as possible, so women can quickly find and read the chapters and sections they need and skip the ones that may not apply to their situation. Each chapter begins with an introductory heading identifying the issue and information it covers such as informed consent laws or clinic harassment and ends with an "At a Glance" checklist that can be skimmed for basic facts and quick tips.
Chapters 1 through 6 cover logistics: how to choose a clinic, deal with informed consent and parental notification and consent laws, and find help if you think you can't afford an abortion or have to travel to a clinic in another city or state. Chapter 7 contains information on clinic harassment, and Chapter 8 looks at the emotional and physical experience of unplanned pregnancy. Chapters 9 and 10 provide basic medical information on abortion, including the procedures used for first- and second-trimester abortions, what will be happening during your appointment, and the drugs that can be used for emergency contraception and early abortion. Chapter 11 is intended only for women who are having a late abortion because of a fetal anomaly or other life-threatening medical condition. The appendixes include a state-by-state list of laws and prochoice organizations; a resource and bibliography section; and sample parental notification, judicial bypass, and medical informed consent forms.
Abortion laws in the United States are currently in a state of flux and are likely to remain that way for years to come. The impact of the antichoice movement has so shifted the center of debate that many supposedly "prochoice" politicians now support informed consent and parental involvement laws and bans on certain late-abortion procedures. Even the long-awaited introduction of the "French abortion pill," RU-486 (mifepristone), cannot ensure that safe, legal, and affordable abortion will be equally available to all women. And nothing seems likely to stop the growth of virulent antichoice activism and violence. Under the circumstances, while every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this book, you should check with your provider or local prochoice organization for the most up-to-date information on laws and other conditions affecting the availability of abortion in your state.
If there is any irony or hope to be drawn from the current situation, it lies in the extraordinary resourcefulness and determination individual women have used to overcome any obstacles in their way. Yes, getting an abortion can be hard and intimidating. It may take more time and money, and it will almost certainly be more stressful, but you can do it. Abortion up to the 24th or 25th week of pregnancy is legal in all 50 states and U.S. territories and possessions, and help is available from clinics and a growing number of prochoice organizations and resources.
In writing this book, I have spoken with many women who have recently had abortions, and their stories have been both infuriating and inspiring. While using their voices, I have changed names and personal details to protect their anonymity.
No woman should have to risk her health, safety, or emotional wellbeing to get an abortion. The Abortion Resource Handbook will provide women with a more positive and empowering frame of reference within which to make their decisions and exercise their inalienable right to reproductive choice.
Copyright© 1997 by K Kaufman