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Mom jailed for giving daughter botched $45 mail-order abortion–sorry, but I don’t feel sorry

September 29, 2014

What do you expect for $45? The Mayo Clinic?

After pleading guilty, Jennifer A. Whalen was sentenced Friday to 9 to 18 months in jail for helping her then-16-year-old daughter abort her unborn child using illegally obtained drugs– Misoprostol and Mifepristone—from overseas.

Whalen, 39, was sentenced by Montour County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary Norton for violating a Pennsylvania state law that makes it illegal for anyone other than a physician to perform an abortion.

“Her decision was poor. She understands that,” said her attorney Michael Banks, according to the Press-Enterprise newspaper. But Judge Norton said her actions amounted to “practicing medicine without a license.”

In 2012, when Whalen’s daughter told her mother she was pregnant, “Whalen couldn’t find a local abortion clinic, and she didn’t want to take her daughter out of state,” the Press-Enterprise’s Chris Krepich reported.

“Whalen found an overseas drugstore online that sold abortion drugs, so she ordered a package for about $45,” according to Krepich. “One drug was to be taken orally, while the other was to be used vaginally 24 hours after the first drug.”

When the daughter took the second drug (Mifepristone), she began bleeding immediately.

She was taken to the ER of a local hospital after experiencing severe abdominal pain. According to Krepich, the mother and daughter were worried something was “really wrong.” Medical records indicate the girl was “treated for incomplete abortion and UTI [urinary tract infection].”

So even Whalen’s lawyer admits that what his client did was stupid.

That hasn’t stopped the hand-wringing from Emily Bazelon at the NYT:

[A]t the sentencing, the Montour County judge, Gary Norton, sent Whalen to jail. He granted work-release but made it clear he had little sympathy for her. “What we have here, we can argue until the cows come home of the right to an abortion.” Norton said, according to local news reports. “A practitioner might be able to perform this, but a lay person is not permitted to take this kind of responsibility which is a huge responsibility.” The judge went on, “This was somebody taking life and law into their own hands.”


In one sense…these cases are an inevitable result of criminalizing abortion. In 39 states, it’s against the law to perform an abortion if you’re not a doctor. In some of the remaining states, you are still required to be a medical professional (a midwife, nurse or physician assistant). In New York, you can do your own abortion in the first two trimesters, but only if you’re following a doctor’s advice. About a quarter of states also still have old laws that make it a crime to help someone else with a self-induction. In a law passed in 1845, for example, Massachusetts calls for a sentence of up to seven years for assisting.

So wait–the problem is that it’s illegal for someone with no medical training to perform a DIY abortion on a minor with $45 mail-order pills that send her daughter to the hospital?

In December 2013, the Montour County district attorney, Rebecca Warren, charged Whalen with a felony for offering medical consultation about abortion without a medical license and with three misdemeanors: for endangering the welfare of a child, dispensing drugs without being a pharmacist and assault….“This case is not about pro-life or pro-choice,” Warren said in a statement last week, responding to criticism of the case from a Pennsylvania state senator. “In actuality, this case is about endangering the welfare of a child through the unauthorized practice of medicine and pharmacy. Allowing individuals to practice medicine or dispense pharmaceuticals without the necessary licenses and knowledge is a blatant violation of the laws of Pennsylvania and a source of great potential harm to our citizens.”

But that’s “criminalizing abortion”!

Posted by Charlotte Allen


From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Lisa C Twaronite permalink

    Oh, that poor mother! She only did I would do for my own daughter. 😦

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