Some worry women will seek unsafe abortion options if current access becomes limited

NOW: Some worry women will seek unsafe abortion options if current access becomes limited

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- The chance that abortion could become illegal in Wisconsin is sparking some concern from doctors who fear women might turn to unsafe alternatives.

According to researchers, nearly 23,000 women around the world die each year from unsafe abortions. This mostly occurs in regions where abortion access is limited or non-existent.

"Research suggests that when abortion becomes less easily available, people are going to look into self-managed options," said Prof. Jenny Higgins, Director, UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity

Higgins is a professor and researcher in the field of obstetrics and gynecology at UW-Madison.

She's following developments about Roe v. Wade closely. "We're not crystal clear on whether and how that ban would be enforced immediately in Wisconsin but we do know that most if not all the abortion providers in our state will cease to offer services if Roe is overturned while things are in the courts," said Higgins.

Right now, abortion is still accessible in Wisconsin but if Roe V. Wade is overturned, it could become criminalized.

"Essentially people will lose access to services at the clinics that are in existence now," said Higgins.

She says this will cause some women to either go across state lines for legal abortions or some women will go through with unwanted pregnancies, which in some situations could put the woman at risk for different reasons.

Some women have health issues that pose a threat. While some women may not have resources to travel to an abortion state. Higgins says this could cause people to self-manage their abortions.

"We have evidence that folks are already doing that both in safe ways and less safe and effective ways," she said.

In recent years, efforts have been made to give women easy and safe options. In Dec. 2021, the FDA ruled that medication abortion could be received by mail after a remote telehealth consultation.

"There's been the development of extremely safe and effective medication that people can take to cause a miscarriage," Higgins said.

If access to safe abortion, including medication, becomes limited, Higgins says it could leave a higher chance some will choose unsafe alternatives.

"There of course are other types of self-managed abortion from physical trauma, to intrauterine trauma, to digesting herbs that we know people also will do and already are doing to cause an abortion or miscarriage. Those techniques are less effective and less safe," said Higgins.

In the past decade, an array of Wisconsin laws have been aimed at restricting abortion access.
Researchers say limited abortion access impacts low income and rural communities at higher rate.

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