The end is sharp not tapered

We’ve seen the Fox News hack’s “joke” about coat hanger abortions.

Jen Gunter explains what happens with a coat hanger abortion.

A coat hanger is technically narrow enough to get through a pregnant cervical os, but the end is sharp not tapered so it can lacerate and perforate. Getting any instrument through the cervix safely also requires visualization and knowledge of the correct amount of force.

If she’s lucky enough to get the coat hanger through her cervix it could easily sail right through the back or side walls of the uterus. The uterine wall is soft and easily perforated with the wrong instrument or unskilled hands. If the uterus is perforated on one of the sides there is a high risk of lacerating a uterine artery, as that is where they are located. If this happens a woman who is by herself could easily bleed to death before she gets appropriate medical care. These arteries pump a lot of blood.

The other danger with uterine perforation is the bowel. Puncturing bowel will hurt, but depending on her level of fear it might only be enough to cry out but not to ask for help. However, within the next 3 days the bowel perforation will most certainly kill her unless she gets appropriate medical care. That care will likely involve major surgery to drain abscesses, remove necrotic bowel, and possibly even a colostomy. The uterus will also be infected and may be damaged beyond repair.

If she was lucky and got that rough end of the coat hanger in and out of her cervix without puncturing something it is unlikely she will induce an abortion immediately. In this scenario the coat hanger is really just a vector for introducing infection. In 2-3 days or so she will cramp, and if fortunate her uterus will contract and she will pass the tissue at home. However, the bacteria from septic abortions often disseminates and each hour the condition remains untreated death takes a step closer.

There’s more.

It’s not a very funny joke.


  1. hjhornbeck says

    Wire coat hangers get all the press, but there’s no shortage of other methods are available:

    The technique of massage abortion, involving the application of pressure to the pregnant abdomen, has been practiced in Southeast Asia for centuries. One of the bas reliefs decorating the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, dated c. 1150, depicts a demon performing such an abortion upon a woman who has been sent to the underworld. […]

    King’s American Dispensatory of 1898 recommended a mixture of brewer’s yeast and pennyroyal tea as “a safe and certain abortive.” Pennyroyal has been known to cause complications when used as an abortifacient. In 1978 a pregnant woman from Colorado died after consuming 2 tablespoonfuls of pennyroyal essential oil which is known to be toxic. […]

    Physical means of inducing abortion, such as battery, exercise, and tightening the girdle– special bands were sometimes worn in pregnancy to support the belly– were reported among English women during the early modern period. Māori, who lived in New Zealand before and at the time of colonisation, terminated pregnancies via miscarriage-inducing drugs, ceremonial methods, and girding of the abdomen with a restrictive belt. […]

    A paper published in 1870 on the abortion services to be found in Syracuse, New York, concluded that the method most often practiced there during this time was to flush inside of the uterus with injected water. The article’s author, Ely Van de Warkle, claimed this procedure was affordable even to a maid, as a man in town offered it for $10 on an installment plan.

    This makes a good litmus test of how serious an anti-choicer is. If they really want to ban abortion, are they willing to also ban massages, teas, belts, and douching?

  2. Gretchen Robinson says

    Then there is the bladder in front of the uterus/vagina. The coathanger is unsterile and carries bacteria into the uterus where a fulminating infection can start. When we talk about a safe, legal abortion, we are using science and medicine to ensure the woman’s safety. The idea that a woman would self-induce an abortion is chilling and shows the deperation that women can feel when they are denied a legal medical procedure.

    Bill Baird, one of the first abortion rights activists, way before Rowe vs. Wade, saw women die on stretchers in hallways outside ERs. Hemorrhaging and/or with an infected pelvis to septic the infection got into their blood. We need to be telling these stories, with their full horror. People have forgotten this history.

    I’ve often heard mention of women in South America passing around a catheter from one woman to another as a way to abort. This is the hidden story in Catholic countries, that there are just as many if not more abortions than in places like the USA. It’s just that no one keeps count of these abortions.

  3. says

    I recently did a bit of googling, and found that there’s 1 death for every 71.5 illegal abortions. (That’s from memory – I’m on an antique laptop and very slow connection so I can’t repeat it.) I think that was worldwide, so Texas might do a little better, but still.

    And countries where abortion is illegal often have higher abortion rates than ones where it’s legal. Presumably because they have worse sex education, contraceptives are harder to get and desperation is desperation. So there’s a good chance that this will kill more women than it saves fetuses.

  4. hjhornbeck says

    According to this UN report, 13% of global maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions, while deaths due to safe abortions are about three orders of magnitude less common. It’s tough to draw conclusions, though, because developing countries are not only more likely to ban abortion, but also have worse health care systems and sex ed.

  5. hjhornbeck says

    What we can say, however, is that the new laws in Texas probably won’t effect the abortion rate all that much.

    Open-air flea markets, like that on the Texas border town of McAllen, sell everything from Viagra to abortion pills, reports Bloomberg. As Texas legislators pass more abortion restrictions, the illegal trade increases.

    Many women who cannot afford care at a clinic end up in these black market bazaars attempting to induce a miscarriage on their own and risking their lives in the process.

    “You’d be amazed at how many people, young people, are taking those pills,” Erlinda Dasquez, a 29-year-old mother of four who has taken it herself, told Bloomberg. “I probably know 12 to 20 people who have done this. My cousin just went to the flea market a few months ago.”

    The four pills Dasquez took cost $40, whereas a pharmeceutical abortion from the nearest licensed provider cost $550.

    Banning abortion doesn’t stop abortion, it just kills off more of the poor and unlucky.

  6. Richard Smith says

    @sheila (#3):

    So there’s a good chance that this will kill more women than it saves fetuses.

    One can practically hear the “pro-life” response: “So?”


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