In 2010, Jennie McCormack found out she was pregnant. The man who got her pregnant had just been sent to jail, and the single, unemployed mother with three young children lived on the $250 she received in child support each month. The nearest clinic to McCormack’s home in southeastern Idaho was in Salt Lake City, a two-and-a-half hour trip that McCormack would have to make four times, because Utah has a waiting period for women seeking abortions. McCormack didn’t have a car, or anyone that could watch her children, to say nothing of the at least $500 needed for the procedure. So Jennie McCormack called her sister, who lived out of state, and asked her to buy RU-486 online and send it to her, for a cost of about $200.
Medical abortions are generally approved for use in up to the ninth week of pregnancy. McCormack thought that she was early enough to use the pills, but the fetus was larger than she expected – it’s possible that the pregnancy was as far as twenty weeks – and she got scared. McCormack called a friend, who called his sister, who called the police – and McCormack was arrested under a 1972 Idaho law that makes it a crime for women to induce their own abortions. The law, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, has never been enforced.