Coat Hanger Abortion

I was just wondering, what is a coat hanger abortion? my friend was talking about it the other day.

What do you think?

From this page.

What’s the matter? Can’t spell Google?

gotpasswords and what about Google results is indicative about the bias of the sites it leads you to? This Board can be far better for this sort of question.

And welcome to the boards KontagiousKaren, I don’t know why you got such snarkyness in some of these answers. I myself have heard the term and wondered about it, but have no knowledge whether such a form of abortion actually exists and if it does how common it may have been.

It is much rarer now that abortion is legal. Some form of this dangerous practice happened in the past more than anybody knows for sure. The reason, of course, that nobody knows for sure is that it was illegal, and therefore hidden. The only time it became a matter of record would be if someone died as the obvious result of such a procedure. You will hear all kinds of statistics based on extrapolation, general educated guesses and anecdotal evidence.

I would guess that in places and situations where for one reason or another the woman cannot get a safe and legal abortion that it still happens from time to time. Again, if there is no obvious evidence, the number of occurrences will never be known for sure and will probably be undercounted.

I’ve never really understood the mechanics of the act, myself. If anyone can enlighten me on the following points, I’d be grateful.

It seems like it would be difficult to worm the tip of the straightened-out coat hanger through the cervical opening without piercing it. What is the result? Does the coat hanger merely pop the placenta, resulting in the death of the fetus, and eventual natural expulsion? Or, is the make-shift tool used to scrape the uterus free of fetal tisssue? How do they know where to “aim?”

Someone may know the name and author of a book (The Ice House?) set in the North-East that was the story of a boy’s growing up and his young manhood. He was born in an “orphanage” (run by a doctor who provided the women a choice of an abortion, or having their baby and maybe leaving it to be adopted). This was set in the times when it was an enormous stigma and an economic disaster to have a “fatherless” child.

At one point when he is grown and out in the world, he goes through a series of scenes in other locations wherein the author describes a number of methods of abortion. One was a certain chemical that caused the abortion, but the woman taking it died due to the effects to taking it over the long term–she made her living in the sex trade, in a time when there were very few choices of a woman’s making a living.

The author is quite specific in describing the methods used. Fascinating in a horrifying way.

The one method I don’t remember being described is a coat-hanger. It may be there was a method of dilating the cervix first.

Mary, you’re thinking of John Irving’s The Cider House Rules.

Lissa, IANAD, and fortunately don’t have any personal experience with this, but my understanding from various reading is yes, it was probably exquisitely difficult and painful. The aborting device in the hands of an amateur may have merely pierced the amniotic sac, or the fetus itself or in the worst case the uterine wall. The cervix might very well have been damaged as well. Any of these is likely to bring on the expulsion of the fetus. Some of them could also cause sterility later, too. If things did not go well later, the woman might go to a real doctor and explain the bleeding, etc. as a spontaneous miscarriage and get the rest taken care of. People who are desperate do desperate things.

Done by someone who knows what he/she is doing, like the protagonist in the Irving book, or a legal abortion now, there would be anesthesia, sterile and appropriate instruments to perform a complete D&C, assuring that the uterus was scraped free of tissue with little chance of infection or negative after effects. Not that it’s a pleasant procedure even now, and IMHO is not an ethical or practical means of routine birth control, but it is rarely deadly or disabling in good medical environments.

When I was growing up in the 50’s, the woman who lived next door performed “coat-hanger” abortions all the time. As far as we know, she never lost a patient - not that she never had a patient otherwise end up in the hospital - so she was extremely popular. Her equipment was a formica kitchen table and a set of “stirrups” which screwed to the table top and, of course, a hangar.

A coat hangar is straightened out to get length and then a loop is formed at one end to resemble a curet (which looks like a small spoon). The objective is to perform a crude type of D&C (dilation & curettage). The dangers of this type of abortion is placental hemorrhage or perforation of the uterine wall and, usually, the bowel.

Although I do believe coat hangers were used in certain situations (as every other possible thing), I think it was more a metaphor for bad abortions in general. It is another point to make for the Pro Choice side, that by not making abortion legal, women will be forced to go to quack doctors (See movie Dirty Dancing).
It is similar to the fight for prostitution being made legal. If it is, it could be regulated, preventing STD spreading and lowering crime.
And don’t turn this into a pro-choice/anti-abortion argument. I am actually pro-choice. I am just trying to be unbiased.

Cillasi, was this lady open about her profession?