Pennsylvania Mother Behind Bars For Procuring Medical Abortion For Daughter

Credit: ThinkStock

Credit: ThinkStock

“I’m scared. And I’m hurt because I can’t be with my family.”

These are the words of 39 year-old Jennifer Whalen, a mother of three from Pennsylvania. And they were spoken on the eve of September 12th—the day before she would begin her 9 to 18th month prison sentence. 

Her crime? Helping her daughter procure medicine to induce an abortion. For this she’s serving time behind bars. 

Whalen’s Story

A deeply private and protective mother and human, Whalen has attempted to stay out of the limelight for her actions, but recently granted an interview to Emily Bazelon of New York Times Magazine before she began serving her sentence. 

In it, she described how her 16 year-old daughter had come to her in the winter of 2012, saying she was pregnant. Whalen’s response? The best kind a mother can have, reassuring her daughter that she would “support her in any decision she made.” A few days later, her daughter relayed: “I can’t have a baby right now.”

So the two looked up the closest clinics . . . only to discover it was 75 miles away. Not only that, but Pennsylvania law requires women seeking abortions to receive counseling and then wait 24 hours before returning for the procedure.

Not only did the Whalen family posses only one car, but Whalen was nervous about missing work—either for an overnight or during the prospect of making two trips. And then there was her husband: “I knew he would be upset, and I was protecting the whole family.”

The mother-daughter team continued their search for the healthcare they sought but were told by another local clinic that they couldn’t be helped. Then Whalen stumbled upon a site selling misoprostol and mifepristone—the two drugs that work in tandem to induce miscarriage during the first trimester—for $45. 

According to Whalen:

“I read all the information. They said these pills would help give a miscarriage, and they were the same ones a doctor would give you.”

She bought them. Five days later they arrived and her daughter took them. When her daughter started having intense stomach pains, Whalen took her to the hospital, where she revealed the medicine her daughter had consumed. The teenager was sent home without an intervention.

Soon after, police knocked and discovered the box the pills had come in. They informed her it was illegal for her to have procured said drugs without a doctor's prescription. Whalen—seriously—had no idea the purchase she had made had been illegal.

"Justice Abounds"

Two years later, district attorney Rebecca Warren “charged Whalen with a felony for offering medical consultation about abortion without a medical license and with three misdemeanors: endangering the welfare of a child, dispensing drugs without being a pharmacist, and assault.”

In a statement she made recently, however, Warren said:

“This case is not about pro-life or pro-choice. 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 like, really lady-lawyer? In this case is it really? Whalen was backed into a corner based on limited circumstances and means. And the pills she provided her daughter are widely considered safe and effective for inducing miscarriage. In fact, some clinics in the U.S. are even experimenting with providing remote abortion treatments.

And like, let's take just a giant step back here, this obviously loving—albeit a bit naive—mother is going to prison for this? This situation has the distinct odor of manure, not the sweet, sweet smell of justice.

Especially when, by contrast, the cop who killed John Crawford III in Walmart . . . won't even be indicted. 

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