Yesterday, the NYPD announced that a 20-year-old woman was charged with self-abortion, after a Washington Heights building super found the body of a fetus in a trash can. There have only been four other cases where women have been charged with self-abortion in the first or second degree since 1980: The NY Times reports, "Three of those cases, from Nassau County in 2006 and 2010 and from Monroe County in 2000, ended in dismissal. A first-degree case in Wayne County in 2006 resulted in a sentence of conditional discharge, meaning the charge would be dismissed if the woman did not get into trouble again."
It's believed this woman's fetus was at least 24 weeks along, and NY State law says it's murder to abort "an unborn child with which a female has been pregnant for more than 24 weeks" (unless the woman's life is in danger). Police charged the woman based on statements she made; sources told DNAinfo that she said she drank a tea before giving birth to a stillborn baby. Still, NOW NYC director Sonia Ossorio told Metro, "It’s absolutely outlandish to charge her with self-abortion. Everyone would be better served if the D.A.’s office dropped this and instead tried to find some services to help her heal."
The Times reports, "Abortion rights advocates say that home abortions, with medications like misoprostol or herbal concoctions, are a phenomenon in Latin American cultures, despite the widespread availability of safe, legal abortions in New York City. They may happen because of a lack of insurance, but also because the women mistrust the medical system, the experts said." A representative of the anti-abortion group Chiarascuro Foundation said, "This woman has my sympathy. This appears to be a clear case of desperation... I wish she had known there are people who would have helped her through this, including the New York Catholic Archdiocese."
The building super at the West 191st Street building said the woman had rented a room briefly. He told the Times, "When I found the baby, I didn’t know if it was real at first. It was so bad."