Women Are Not Incubators!

The Ordeal of Gabriela Flores

by Linda Flores

Revolution #005, June 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us

A young immigrant woman in South Carolina was jailed for four months and may face two years more in jail for performing an abortion on herself. Yes, you heard that right.

Last October, Gabriela Flores ended her 16-week pregnancy by taking misoprostol pills sent by her sister from Mexico. She had no choice but to risk her life by taking illegally imported drugs, without any doctor's supervision, because although abortion is technically legal in South Carolina, in Gabriela's situation it may as well have been illegal.

South Carolina laws force women to get permission from their husbands, listen to biased anti-abortion "counseling" riddled with misinformation, and to undergo a mandatory waiting period. And abortions after 13 weeks are so restricted that no provider in the state will offer them.

Gabriela would have had to travel to another state, two and-a-half hours away, and since such a procedure is done over two days, she most likely would have lost her job. Gabriela was working in the fields supporting three children and herself on $150 per week. There is no way she could have afforded the $700 procedure.

The pills caused her to expel the dead fetus, which she buried in her back yard. One can only imagine the stress and pain of her whole situation. But her suffering was far from over.

She was reported to the police, who were told that the four-month-old fetus was born alive. Rather than showing concern for her health, sheriffs obtained a warrant and dug up the fetus. Prosecutors wanted to charge Gabriela with murder. They would have been legally able to do it if they'd been able to prove that the fetus would have survived on its own. Since there's no way a four-month-old fetus could do this, they couldn't get away with that charge. But had she been further along—say, five or six months pregnant—they probably would have been able to get away with it. Instead, they charged her with performing an abortion on herself—which is illegal under South Carolina law.

And they weren't done yet. They charged her friend, who helped her to bury the fetus, with obstruction of justice. And they also charged Gabriela with failure to notify a coroner. But why, in a state where abortion is legal, did she need to notify anyone? Because they wouldn't believe her until a coroner certified the fetus was dead when she expelled it from her body. By this logic, if you had a three-month miscarriage you would have to notify a coroner to come and inspect the remains!

The irony is that Gabriela said she didn't notify anyone of the abortion because she was afraid she'd end up in jail—and she was right! In her statement to police, she said, "Please forgive me." For what? She didn't do anything wrong!

There are still too many people who don't understand what horrors women face when trying to get an abortion in places like South Carolina. Too many think that things like "informed consent" laws and mandatory waiting periods aren't really that big of a problem. What happened to Gabriela Flores should serve as a real wakeup call.

If you step back and look at this whole heart-wrenching story, it brings to life in a thousand ways the worthlessness and cruelty of this whole system. Forced to come to this country in order to survive, Gabriela had to leave two of her children behind on the other side of the razor wire and death fields of the border.

She broke her back in the fields for the privilege of trying to feed herself and her family on $150 a week and still have enough to send money to her children back home.

She had to endanger her health and her life to get an abortion. A snitch landed her in jail. The woman that helped her was arrested.

And now, she has been criminalized; she faces two years in prison and will likely face deportation. It's unclear what will happen to the child she has here. Her whole life—never valued anyway—is being destroyed. What kind of a world is this? And why should things remain this way a second longer than they have to?