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March 07, 2006

Molly Saves The Day Saves The Day Ethics  Rights, Law  Science/Technology

South Dakota can ban abortions, but they can't ban knowledge. In response to the South Dakota law, Molly Saves the Day has stepped up with the first installment of a manual for performing safe abortions. Excerpt:

In the 1960s and early 1970s, when abortions were illegal in many places and expensive to get, an organization called Jane stepped up to the plate in the Chicago area. Jane initially hired an abortion doctor, but later they did the abortions themselves. They lost only one patient in 13,000 — a lower death rate than that of giving live birth. The biggest obstacle they had, though, was the fact that until years into the operation, they thought of abortion as something only a doctor could do, something only the most trained specialist could perform without endangering the life of the woman.

They were deceived — much like you have probably been deceived. An abortion, especially for an early pregnancy, is a relatively easy procedure to perform. And while I know, women of South Dakota, that you never asked for this, now is the time to learn how it is done. There is no reason you should be beholden to doctors — especially in a state where doctors have been refusing to perform them, forcing the state's only abortion clinic to fly doctors in from elsewhere.

No textbooks or guides existed at that time to help them, and the equipment was hard to find. This is no longer true. For under $2000, any person with the inclination to learn could create a fully functioning abortion setup allowing for both vacuum aspiration and dilation/curettage abortions. If you are careful and diligent, and have a good grasp of a woman's anatomy you will not put anyone's health or life in danger, even if you have not seen one of these procedures performed.

For the detailed how-to, see Molly's post. Further installments are in the works. Hopefully, this will be just the start. The colloborative possibilities of the Internet could enable the "open-source" development of a truly first-rate how-to manual.

It's obviously a controversial move by Molly, and probably some of you reading this think Molly's wrong to do it and I'm wrong to help publicize it. But the thing is, women will continue to have abortions no matter what the law says. That has been true for centuries, if not millenia, and it's true now. Surely it's better that it be done safely. And those of you who believe a fertilized egg is the moral equivalent of an adult human being, I invite you to reflect on this.

Update: [11:02PM] As long as we're talking about abortion, this is an intriguing video (via The Talent Show). Someone's not thinking too clearly.

Posted by Jonathan at March 7, 2006 06:10 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


Seriously, great adult material. That will be found and used by teens.

I believe in free speech and a women’s right to choose. I also believe adults bear responsibility when presenting adult material to teens. I wonder if Molly will bear this responsibility fully should a very unfortunate occasion arise. It will be hers alone to bear.

Posted by: Jeff at March 7, 2006 09:23 PM

Better than having them use coat hangers.

Posted by: Jonathan at March 7, 2006 10:08 PM

Or using a wooden spoon. (the software here filters the word dia-net-ics)

Posted by: eric blair at March 8, 2006 03:05 AM

Yes, Molly bearing this responsibility is better than teens using coat hangers and wooden spoons.

Posted by: Jeff at March 8, 2006 10:43 AM

I think it's indisputable that this kind of information will help many more women than it hurts. I.e., the women who are saved from being hurt by this information will vastly outnumber the women who are hurt because of it. Saying this information shouldn't get out there because somebody might be hurt by it is like saying we shouldn't do heart surgery because every once in a while a patient dies.

Posted by: Jonathan at March 8, 2006 10:52 AM

I've read through Molly's piece and really I find it hard to believe that a teen would actually read through it. It is a highly technical instruction manual for someone to set up an illegal but safe abortion clinic not a how-to on how to induce a single abortion. The idea of someone going to these lengths upsets me but so does the idea that a group of people think they can make medical and moral decisions for others.

Posted by: Charyn at March 8, 2006 10:57 AM

Charyn, Molly's article IS a how-to on how to perform an abortion, and teenagers will find and attempt this procedure amongst themselves. The fact that it's highly technical is what makes it dangerous in the hands of teens. You really need to understand the awesome power of shame on the underdeveloped emotions of a teenager, let alone a pregnant teenager, to grasp the level of desperation they face when they suddenly find themselves pregnant. Don't doubt for a second teens will find Molly's post a God send!

Jonathan, I'm not at all suggesting this information shouldn't be out there. I'm glad it's out there - I actually see it as means to an end of this political red herring. You're correct in saying it will help more than it will harm. I simply see what Molly has published as having the potential of *unnecessarily* harming a lot of teens.

In short, Molly really has done anything to protect teens. Her post doesn't suggest any reading a teenager should consider before making the decision to abort (abortion clinics do this - counseling prior to procedure). She could make the instructions less technical and provide pictures and diagrams so a teenager has a better chance of success. She could post web sites, phone numbers and email addresses of adult groups who can provide assistance and consoling to teens (or provide a medium for these two groups of people to communicate in private/secret).

Molly has done none of this. She's simply posted a detailed medical procedure on how to perform an abortion. This has been done with seemingly no thought given to teens, and this is what I find irresponsible given the vast number of teens who have abortions. I would have had nothing but praise for Molly had she gone the extra mile and taken responsibility for teens who don't know how to take responsibility for themselves.

The burden of keeping children safe falls squarely on the shoulders of adults. I'm not looking for perfection, I don't need something that's full-proof. I just need something - anything - that has an eye on our kids.

Posted by: Jeff at March 8, 2006 08:16 PM

Jeff, point taken. I think of Molly's work as being just the first step. The Internet didn't exist when abortions were illegal in the bad old days. Now, the net should make it possible to disseminate really first-rate information. It would be great to see collaborative open-source efforts (a la Wikipedia) to create the "perfect" how-to. User-friendly but authoritative, illustrated, clear, etc. Animations. Downloadable video. Expert systems that walk you through the steps and help you deal with the unexpected. Who knows what else.

If abortion truly becomes illegal again, I'm guessing we'll see a variety of efforts along those lines. One could imagine as well a network of sympathetic doctors in countries beyond the reach of US law who take turns being on call via cell phone or Internet to help in emergencies.

People are networked in so many ways now that endless possibilities exist. The knowledge genie won't be stuffed back into the bottle.

Posted by: Jonathan at March 8, 2006 10:14 PM


Molly did not post instructions for self-induced abortion. She posted this information (which is a first installment by the way) so that women could start preparing for when abortion is criminalized.

Once illegal clinics are set up, then we'll have to figure out how to get information out about to find someone who can perform the procedure safely. The more people who are aware that there are safe procedures, then the better the odds that a pregnant teenager looking for advise will be able to access the information.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the target audience of the post was not at all to women who are considering having an abortion. There are many people who feel helpless watching what is going in South Dakota - Molly's post gives these people something they can do (if not learning how to do the procedure themselves, they can financially support the set up of safe clinics).

As you said, abortion clinics provide information on other options. Information about these options is already available from a variety of sources. Until Molly's post, I had never seen the information she posted. Even if Roe is overturned and many states criminalize abortion, the world has changed a lot in 30 years. We don't have to go back to unsafe illegal abortions. States may be able to outlaw abortion, but they can't stop the spread of information.

Posted by: AK at March 31, 2006 11:49 AM