Student explains wire hanger symbol

Commentary By
Elizabeth Dennis

Picture 300,000 angry people marching on Washington D.C. in the name of legal abortion. They are holding “Never Again” signs with wire hangers around their necks to symbolize the heinous truth of what common illegal abortion methodology is.

This sounds like one of the popular post-Trump election marches right? Wrong.

This protest happened in 1969 before the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, which legalized abortion in every state. Before this verdict, self-induced and “back-door” abortions were common for women with unwanted pregnancies. These were typically performed in unsanitary conditions by someone not medically qualified, which was often the woman herself.

The coat hanger is the selected image because it is a common tool used to penetrate the cervix and disrupt an unwanted pregnancy in self-induced abortion. This practice, and others like it, have historically led to internal injury, severe infection, hospitalization or maternal death [or any combination of the four].

In 1968 alone more than 500,000 prohibited abortions were performed in the United States and about 5,000 maternal deaths occurred as a result.

In contrast, 664,435 safe abortions were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013 without any deaths. Abortion safety is becoming significant once again in light of the recent election.

Today, after 44 years of legalization, President Trump has fervently voiced his pro-life agenda. This includes this statement made during the third presidential debate in October 2016, when asked if he would like to overturn Roe v. Wade: “That’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.”

This, and other remarks like it, have outraged many pro-choice Americans because Roe v. Wade established abortion as a constitutional right for women. Now this right is being threatened and the history of unsafe abortions is coming back around as a potential future for women in America.

In the U.S. about 4,157,894 people took part in the Women’s March after the Trump inauguration with 500,000 on Washington D.C. alone, quite a jump from the 300,000 in 1969.

There was an outstanding similarity among the passionate pro-choice participants; the presence of the notorious wire coat hanger symbol to represent the options that remain if abortion is once again made illegal. However, since 1969 this symbol has evolved and become quite popular for the pro-choice movement.

In 2016 Ohio banned abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy, people immediately reacted by putting wire hangers on the fence of the Ohio Statehouse and protested with hangers in hand. The D.C. Abortion Fund, run by volunteers only, gives away coat hanger pendants to those who donate money to help local women pay for abortions.

This has ignited controversy on social media and made the symbol even more popular among pro-choice activists.

After the Women’s March several tattoo artists in Brooklyn, New York started giving coat hanger tattoos for free, donating the money to Planned Parenthood or other pro-choice organizations. They also have fundraisers where hundreds of people wait in line to be tattooed and donate to the cause.

This trend has caught on throughout the country and people everywhere are getting inked with small coat hangers. The symbol is gaining steam and recognition from both the conservative and liberal media due to its shocking nature. This image is forcing people to envision the horrific reality of illegal abortion.

Banning abortions in the United States will not stop them from being performed, it will only make unsafe abortions flourish once again and bring back the classic coat hanger method.

This is a developed nation with the medical resources and moral responsibility to keep its women safe. Remembering America’s abortion history is the simplest way to avoid repeating it and the image of a coat hanger will not be easily forgotten.

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