That woman in Pennsylvania who’s in jail for ordering miscarriage-inducing pills for her daughter online – here’s why she ordered those pills:
Whalen told me that in the winter of 2012, her daughter came to her and said she was pregnant. Whalen told her she would “support her in any decision she made.” Her daughter, who was in high school, took a few days to think and then asked her mother for help ending the pregnancy. “She said, ‘I can’t have a baby right now,’ and she asked me to look up clinics,” Whalen said.
The daughter was 16. I remember being 16. I was not mature enough to raise a child, nor was I in a position to support a child – to put it very mildly. Having a child at that age would have been horrific in every way I can think of.
Together, they looked online. The closest clinic was about 75 miles away. Pennsylvania requires women seeking abortions to first receive counseling and wait 24 hours before returning for the procedure. The cost of a first-trimester abortion is typically between $300 and $600. Whalen works as a personal-care aide at an assisted-living center for the elderly. She didn’t have health insurance for her daughter. And she was worried about taking time away from work and her family to make two trips or to stay overnight. At the time, Whalen and her husband shared one car, which they both used to get to work.
You see that’s what all these bullshit laws and regulations making abortions logistically extremely hard to get actually do in practice – they fuck the poor. The clinic is far; there’s a waiting period; the abortion is expensive; health insurance is expensive; many jobs pay very little, Whalen’s job being one such job; low-level workers have a hard time getting time off work; transportation is expensive and difficult. It’s fuck the poor every step of the way – because it’s such a brilliant idea to saddle the children of the poor with unplanned children before they’ve even graduated from high school. Yeah that’s a just and fair society.
What Whalen did in trying to help her daughter — order pills online — is probably an increasingly common response to the rising wave of abortion restrictions that has rolled across the states in the last four years. “Her situation is very scary legally, because we are seeing the number of clinics dwindle,” Nash said. “If women don’t have access to abortion clinics, some will turn to the Internet, and then, will they be charged with a crime?”
The grim answer was yes for Jennifer Whalen because of a series of choices made by officials who had the discretion to respond differently. Hospital authorities decided that they were mandated to report Whalen, according to the district attorney, because they made a judgment call that what she did was “suspected or actual child abuse.” Warren, the district attorney, could have declined to press charges. And Norton, the judge, could have refrained from sending Whalen to jail.
When I asked Jennifer Whalen whether the case has been especially hard on her older daughter, she didn’t want to talk about it. “She’s going to college and working two jobs,” she said with a bit of pride. It was clear that Whalen is still trying to shield her child. She just wants her to go on and live her life.
But how very tragic and unfair that Whalen has to pay for that with a felony conviction, prison, and the loss of a job she loved.