Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Hrm, A Gun or an Abortion?

A 22 year-old pregnant woman, who was unable to afford an abortion, carried her fetus to the middle of the third trmester and then shot herself in the belly, killing the fetus.

The woman claims she did this because she was impoverished, she already has two children and because her boyfriend was mentally abusive to her. Basically, she felt trapped and diminished to the point where she felt that she had no other options available to her.


There is no doubt that this event is both serious and very tragic, but is this woman a criminal? Should she be prosecuted for murder or for illegal abortion? If so, then consider that there is a dangerous public interest problem that comes with holding a woman legally responsible for her prenatal conduct.

“It turns every expectant mother into a potential criminal,” said Martingayle, the defense attorney. “If they can convince a jury that she did it on purpose, than the expectant mother becomes a target.”

“The question we shouldn’t be asking is, ‘What crime did she commit?’ But, ‘Why didn’t she have access to abortion services? Why didn’t she have access to mental health services?’” asked Lynn Paltrow, executive director at Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Ann Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, said; “If the right to kill the child resides totally in that child’s mother — which it does — why would it be illegal for her to do this with a gun as opposed to with a suction vacuum machine in a doctor’s office?”

I find it surprising that she could afford to have a gun, but not an abortion. Also, is there a Planned Parenthood in her area? Most of them offer abortions to poor women on a sliding scale. I wonder if the state will take her other chicldren away from her. What are your thoughts about this story, dear readers?

cited story.

Comments

  1. #1 Emily
    October 24, 2006

    There are two problems here:

    Even on a sliding scale, the price of abortions are prohibitive. I’m in the lowest pay bracket for my birth control pills and I pay $70 for three months. That’s cheaper than at the pharmacy, but still expensive.

    Additionally, finding a clinic who will provide the specific procedure you need is difficult. There is a Planned Parenthood within walking distance of my college, but they do not provide abortion services, let alone later-term services. As freshman are prohibited from having cars, and are isolated from the rest of the student body by clustering, how would I have access? And consider that I am in a very blue state: it’s even harder in my hometown, deep in the heart of Texas.

    My specific circumstances aside, abortion is expensive and most women have very poor access to it.

    That’s why she used a gun.

  2. #2 Roger
    October 24, 2006

    Too often the issue is framed simplistically. It’s not the fetus or the mother but the whole situation. And in this case, even with legalized induced abortion, the woman’s choices were reduced to those of desperation.

  3. #3 llewelly
    October 24, 2006

    I find it surprising that she could afford to have a gun,

    Why do you think she purchased the gun?

    Also, is there a Planned Parenthood in her area? Most of them offer abortions to poor women on a sliding scale.

    Few people ever learn this without first visiting a planned parenthood. People who have been told abortion is murder all their lives are unlikely to visit a planned parenthood.

  4. #4 bob koepp
    October 24, 2006

    Obviously, any decent person will be moved to sympathize with this woman. What a tragic story. But… shooting oneself in the stomach as an alternative to a “normal” abortion??? Methinks this person did not make a good faith effort to find help. I’d stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign pleading with passersby for assistance before I’d even imagine shooting myself.

  5. #5 The Ridger
    October 24, 2006

    Guns are cheap. Buy ‘em at a yard sale (we are talking Virginia) or a gun show and you don’t even need paperwork.

  6. #6 llewelly
    October 24, 2006

    Methinks this person did not make a good faith effort to find help.

    The article says nothing about what prior efforts she made, and nothing about the difficulties she faced making them. You appear to have no grounds for your judgement other than your own estimation that obtaining help would be easy for you.

  7. #7 bob koepp
    October 24, 2006

    No, llelwelly. There’s a huge chasm between “easily” secured assistance and shooting oneself. Sometimes people do stupid things.

  8. #8 llewelly
    October 24, 2006

    Sometimes people do stupid things.

    Unfortunately this observation tells us nothing about how to prevent ‘stupid’ behaviors. It’s a psychological god-of-the-gaps; it has no predictive value, and can make no contribution to helping people.

  9. #9 bob koepp
    October 24, 2006

    ?!?!?!
    It was, indeed, an observation, not a prescription. I’m sorry if I offended you in some way.

  10. #10 Bardiac
    October 24, 2006

    A while back PZ Myers did a post about what it would take for a woman to be able to get an abortion in his area; you might want to read that to get an idea of how difficult it is even in the relatively liberal state of Minnesota; he seemed surprised by what he learned at the time.

    In many states, a woman has to travel for several hours, wait 24 hours, etc. It may be legal to get an abortion, but that doesn’t mean women actually have access.

    Something like 90% of counties in the US have no abortion services available. None.

  11. #11 speedwell
    October 24, 2006

    Abusive boyfriends often have guns.

  12. #12 Greg
    October 25, 2006

    Screw the law. Screw availability. Screw middleclass sensibilities. I’m having difficulty imagining what kind of hell was tormenting her mind that she able to shoot herself, intending to survive.

  13. #13 ausblog
    October 25, 2006

    If only she had used an effective birth control…