Two Virginia women charged over homespun herbal abortion

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 9:42 EDT
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Jessica Carpenter (left) and Rachel Lowe, charged in Virginia for allegedly inducing an abortion. Photo: Screenshot via WTKR-TV.
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Two Virginia women are being charged with inducing an abortion using herbs they purchased at a local supplement store, according to Norfolk-based WTKR-TV.

The women are Jessica Carpenter, 20, and Rachel Lowe, 27. Court documents allege that Lowe, a former employee of the Tidewater Women’s Clinic in Norfolk, helped Carpenter induce a miscarriage at six months into her pregnancy using a combination of herbs.

Lea Smith, one of their mutual friends, told WTKR-TV that she heard them discussing an induced miscarriage. She contacted police when the infant died after being born prematurely.

Tidewater Women’s Clinic owner Dr. David Peters told the station that Lowe was never involved in any medical procedures, insisting that she was hired to do clerical work and occasionally comfort nervous patients.

He added that inducing a miscarriage with herbal supplements, a practice that goes back hundreds of years, is extremely dangerous and could have killed Carpenter. Peters also noted that the survival rate for babies born after just six months of gestation is “at best 50 percent, maybe 60 percent.” WTKR-TV did not obtain the baby’s autopsy results, and the two accused women refused to comment.

Virginia law considers self-inducing an abortion a Class 4 felony, carrying a jail sentence of no less than two years and no more than 10, along with a fine of up to $100,000.

Virginia is one of the states on the front lines of the anti-abortion movement, passing laws in recent years to require women undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before having an abortion and implementing targeted regulations designed to force every last clinic in the state to shut down.

It’s not clear whether these policies affected Carpenter’s situation, but many pro-choice activists believe the prevalence of homespun herbal abortions will increase as women lose access to clinics that perform safe, medically supervised abortions and dispense clinically pure drugs that cause miscarriage.

This video is from WTKR-TV, aired Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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