The (Not So) Surprising Reason “DIY Abortion” Google Searches Have Increased In The US

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“We won’t go back.”

That’s a familiar slogan to many feminists who understand it to mean women refuse to go back to the days when abortion was illegal, and women resorted to dangerously unsafe “diy” abortions or illegal procedures. It was a popular phrase etched into history until Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion in all 50 states in 1973, came about.

While there are many modern feminists who are adopting the slogan today and holding up signs during rallies protesting anti-choice regulations that continue to be introduced and passed in state legislatures every year, it’s time ot admit how redundant it really us. The truth is, we already HAVE gone back.

We have been quite open about being a pro-choice media site that empowers all women to make their own health decisions, without the interference of government or an other third party organization. Abortion is an extremely personal and often difficult decision to make, which doesn’t get any easier with the judgement and shaming from other people.

What we find the most compelling is the data. A recent report from the New York Times shares some surprising (or perhaps not so surprising for those who see the bigger picture) information relating to an increase in “DIY abortion” Google searches.

“In 2015, in the United States, there were about 119,000 searches for the exact phrase ‘how to have a miscarriage.’ There were also searches for other variants — ‘how to self-abort’ — and for particular methods. Over all, there were more than 700,000 Google searches looking into self-induced abortions in 2015,” writes Seth Stephens Davidowitz.

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Additionally, there were 3.4 million online searches for abortion clinics, and in the US each year 1 million abortions are performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute. This organization also found that the places people were most likely to search for information regarding abortion online were in states where the strictest anti-choice laws have been put into effect. For instance in Mississippi, which has only once abortion clinic in the entire state, the highest number of searches regarding abortion came from here.

A look into the more detailed aspects of the Google search analytics show some scary and heartbreaking trends.

“The 700,000 searches included about 160,000 asking how to get abortion pills through unofficial channels — searches like ‘buy abortion pills online’ and ‘free abortion pills.’ There were tens of thousands of searches looking into abortion by herbs like parsley or by vitamin C. There were some 4,000 searches looking for directions on coat hanger abortions, including about 1,300 for the exact phrase ‘how to do a coat hanger abortion.’ There were also a few hundred looking into abortion through bleaching one’s uterus and punching one’s stomach,” writes Stephen.

Want to know why we are sharing this? Because we genuinely believe the anti-abortion laws sweeping the country, which have increased exponentially since 2011, are not doing anything to protect women or even prevent/stop abortion. In fact a recent report released by the National Partnership for Women & Families, following the Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt Supreme Court Case on March 2nd, have found that 70% of all state abortion restrictions introduced in the 2015-2016 legislative session are based on false information.

This isn’t isolated research, by the way. A recent study from Rutgers University found that one-third of all information abortion providers are forced to distribute under “informed consent” laws is medically inaccurate or misleading.

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The NPWF study examined 351 proposals introduced in statehouses across the country from January 1 to February 22, and found that 251 bills in 37 states do not 100% accurately represent the medical facts about abortion. They broke down the lies into 2 broad categories and gave examples:

150 restrictions introduced in 30 states are based on fundamental lies about abortion and abortion providers, including lies about abortion safety and the physical and mental health impacts of abortion. For example:

  • A bill in New York would require an abortion provider to give a woman seeking abortion care medically inaccurate information.
  • A bill in Florida would shut down women’s health clinics and prevent trusted health care professionals from providing abortion care based on lies about abortion safety.

101 restrictions introduced in 25 states are based on lies about women who decide to have an abortion, including the notion that women are not capable of making private medical decisions without state intervention. For example:

  • A bill in Alabama would force a woman to get an ultrasound, even if it’s not needed, and force the abortion provider to give a detailed description, even if the woman doesn’t want to hear it.
  • A bill in Indiana would more than double the state’s mandatory delay period.

This study was part of a 6-figure campaign by a number of media outlets looking to expose the lies going largely unchecked in many of these bills, and there is a dedicated web page where you anyone can get detailed info on these types of laws. The idea is not to force any sort of pro choice ideological or political agenda on anyone, the point is to get lies and myths out of bills which should instead be based on medical facts.

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“Lies about abortion and the women who have them are being turned into laws across the country, and it needs to stop. All women deserve medically accurate information and access to a full range of reproductive health care,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership.

“The leading medical societies, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are on the record stating that obstacles to abortion care pose a threat to women’s health. Abortion opponents need to learn that legislating something doesn’t make it true, and that when they lie we’re going to call them out,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, director of reproductive health programs at the National Partnership.

Both the American Cancer Society and World Health Organization have debunked the myth that abortion can lead to breast cancer.

Yet these laws continue to pop up across the country. Slate reports that 353 pieces of anti-abortion legislation sprouted up in all but four states in just the first 53 days of 2016. In the past 5 years more than 200 anti-choice bills have been signed into law across the country. And let’s be clear, it is not going to lead to a decline in abortion at all, what it is doing, is forcing women to resort to dangerous methods.

A study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that up to 240,000 women have tried to perform self-abortions because they don’t have access to a safe abortion clinic. Some say this is directly related to the 2013 enactment of HB2, the law being contested in the Supreme Court which forces clinics to adhere to hospital standards (highly unnecessary) to simply (in most cases) take an abortion pill. Because a large number of clinics do not have the funds to upgrade their facilities to comply with the law, they have been forced to shut down. In fact more than half of Texas’ clinics have shut down since 2013.

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No matter which side of the debate you are on, we have to all come together and look at the data in order to find more common sense solutions. The truth is NO ONE likes abortion, no woman ever wants to find herself in a situation where she has an unwanted or unintended pregnancy, but an anti-abortion law is the last thing that is going to “protect” her or help her make the right choice.

A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine reports an 18% decrease in unintended pregnancy rates. This means a 30-year low, according to the Guttmacher Institute who conducted the study. They have determined there is one thing in particular that has helped lower the rates – contraception.

In particular, intrauterine devices (IUDs), which is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC).

“After a long period of minimal change, the unintended pregnancy rate has declined to the lowest rate observed in the United States since we first began tracking these numbers in 1981, and by 18% in just three years,” researcher Lawrence Finer said in the statement.

IUD use has risen up to 83% between 2006 and 2013. This is what it comes down to – effective, safe, contraception and access to unbiased, comprehensive sex education. If we truly want to protect women’s health, we need to come together and demand legislators enable women to have easier access to birth control and contraception. There are only 22 states which require public schools to teach sex education, and only 18 of those require the teaching to be medically accurate. The rest of the states push abstinence only education, and it’s no surprise that those states report the highest teen pregnancy rates.

This dangerous trend to dupe women with misinformation cannot continue. We are dedicated to sharing the facts about this issue because we cannot allow the next generation of women to grow up without being armed with the right information.

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