Jennie Linn McCormack had just finished doing laundry and putting her 2-year-old son to bed when she heard a knock one evening in May 2011. McCormack, a single mother of three living off child support checks, opened the door to find a police officer. He was there to arrest her. The officer explained that McCormack had committed a serious felony under Idaho law—by giving herself an abortion. He proceeded to barrage her with invasive questions about her body and her ex-boyfriend.
“How can you question me about my personal stuff?” McCormack demanded, according to an NPR report.
“Well,” the officer apparently responded, “there’s legal and there’s personal.” The state charged McCormack with intentionally self-terminating her pregnancy, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
After several humiliating hearings, McCormack and her attorney defeated the charge. McCormack actually had given herself an abortion in late 2010, mostly out of desperation: There were no abortion clinics anywhere in southeast Idaho, and an abortion in Salt Lake City, 138 miles away, could cost $2,000. So McCormack procured abortion pills online and took five. She hadn’t realized that her fetus was between 19 and 23 weeks old—and that she was much too far along in her pregnancy to have a safe nonsurgical abortion. McCormack told her friend about the abortion. The friend told her sister—and her sister told the police, who found the fetus wrapped in bags on McCormack’s back porch.
After a judge dismissed the case against her for lack of evidence, McCormack was legally off the hook.