Jennifer Whalen, a Pennsylvania mother of three, is currently serving a prison sentence for the “crime” of obtaining misoprostol and mifeprestone for her 16-year-old daughter, who used the drug to induce a miscarriage in the first trimester of an unplanned pregnancy.
In more SEO-worthy terms, this woman in in jail for helping her daughter have an abortion.
Like Whalen, I have a daughter. If she needed me to help her end an unwanted pregnancy, I would do it. Here are the steps we would take:
1. We would make an appointment at the Planned Parenthood clinic that is less than five miles from our home.
Jennifer Whalen’s nearest abortion clinic was 75 miles away.
2. As required by Minnesota law, my husband and I would provide written documentation that we were told of our daughter’s decision to terminate her pregnancy at least 48 hours before the procedure.
Whalen “knew [her daughter’s father] would be upset,” so she didn’t tell him about the pregnancy.
3. 24 hours before the procedure, my daughter would be required to listen to a five minute phone call about fetal development, the medical risks of abortion, and the medical risks of continuing the pregnancy to term. This is part of Minnesota’s “Woman’s Right to Know” Act, which was passed in 2003 under the assumption that all sexually active women must be stupid.
I don’t know if Pennsylvania has a bullshit law like this, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
4. At no point would I be concerned about the time this would take, because all of the work I do for pay is done at home.
A personal-care aide at an assisted-living center for the elderly, Whalen worried that taking time off for travel and waiting periods would endanger her job.
5. If I were unable to drive my daughter to the clinic on appointment day, we would take a bus to the light rail line that stops just two blocks away.
At the time of her daughter’s pregnancy, the Whalen family also had only one car, which both parents juggled to get to work. When my family’s second car crapped out in 2010, we realized that abundant local transit options made purchasing a replacement unnecessary.
6. The fee for my daughter’s first trimester abortion would be covered by the health insurance provided by my husband’s employer, a Fortune 500 company.
Emily Bazelon’s article about the family states that the pregnant daughter was uninsured. I’m guessing that Jennifer and her other two daughters weren’t insured, either.
7. If there were complications, I could take my daughter to the hospital without fear of being reported to child protective services.
Guess how the state of Pennsylvania learned about what Whalen did?
As I work on the promotional and marketing materials for my book The Radical Housewife, I find myself looking back to the very first days of my feminist reawakening, to the time when the birth of my children made real for me all of the feminist talking points I’d only read about or listened to on my old Free to Be…You and Me record. Having a kid not only puts your heart on the outside of your body, it puts your guts and soul out there too. It forces you to confront painful realities, one of which is the cold hard fact that when I put myself in Jennifer Whalen’s shoes, I can see myself doing the same thing for my daughter but never, EVER experiencing the same consequences.
That’s wrong. That’s why I can’t sit idly in my safe socioeconomic bubble and be content with the status quo.
This story illustrates perfectly why many abortion rights activists are no longer using the term “pro-choice.” What good does being “pro-choice” do to help women whose choices have been taken from them?
I stand for reproductive justice and for the release of Jennifer Whalen.