The Rise of DIY Abortions

According to playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel, the idea for Dry Land came from reading a 2012 article on The New Republic called The Rise of DIY Abortions. The article details the particular story of Jennie Linn McCormack, who purchased pills online to induce an abortion, and was subsequently charged by the county prosecutor with a felony for having an abortion in a manner not sanctioned by the state.

McCormack knew that an abortion would cost $400 to $2,000, depending on how far along she was. Utah has a mandatory waiting period of 72 hours, which meant she would either need to stay in a hotel for that time, or make the six-hour round trip twice over the course of several days. She couldn’t come up with that kind of money. So she called her older sister, who owned a computer, and asked her to order abortion pills for her on the Internet. The pills cost $200, and McCormack says the logistics of arranging it all took about two months.

Jennie Linn McCormack. Robyn Twomey for Newsweek

Jennie Linn McCormack. Robyn Twomey for Newsweek

The article also highlights the abortion restrictions that have cropped up across the country in recent years, and the subsequent rise of retailers who sell abortion drugs online.

But while obtaining an abortion at a clinic is becoming harder, home abortion has never been easier or safer. In 2012, women have two resources that previous generations did not: abortion pills and the Internet. The combination of two drugs—Cytotec (Misoprostol) and Mifeprex (Mifepristone, known as RU-486 in trials) is 95 to 99 percent effective at ending a pregnancy in the first nine weeks, according to Ibis Reproductive Health’s Daniel Grossman, an expert on medical abortion. (Cytotec is 85 to 90 percent effective on its own.) “Essentially they induce an abortion similar to a spontaneous miscarriage,” says Grossman of the drug combination…

…Online, however, these drugs are readily available, often via suspicious-sounding sites that make claims like: “The Affordable Abortion Pill Will Safely, Quickly Terminate Your Undeveloped Fetus In The Privacy Of Your Home, Save You Time And Hundreds Of Dollars. It Is 100% Clinically Safe, Very Effective And The Most Affordable Abortion Pill You Will Get Your Hands On For Now!!!”…

…There are thousands of websites selling Cytotec for as little as $45 to $75 (compared with $300 to $800 for a legal medicated abortion in a clinic). Some claim to offer the harder-to-come-by Mifeprex, but may in fact be peddling Cytotec, or aspirin, or nothing at all. (Possible sources for the drugs include Mexico, where Cytotec is available over the counter, or even the United States, since it’s also prescribed here as an ulcer medication.)

These details create the context for the world surrounding the teens in Dry Land, and give some insight into Amy’s decision to induce an abortion with pills she purchased online.

In the few years since this article was published, even more abortion restrictions have been passed and access to reproductive heath care is as relevant as ever. As we begin rehearsals and start to explore Amy’s feelings about her pregnancy and DIY abortion, this piece is a good reminder of the hard choices some women find themselves making in the face of limited options.