Self-Induced Abortion Increases Where Legal Care Is Scarce In The Rio Grande Valley

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While many Texans reflected on what was a somber 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, focus was shifted specifically to the Rio Grande Valley, where access to reproductive care services has vastly reduced. Because of this, doctors who previously were able to provide abortion care have highlighted the frequency of people whose only options are to self-induce abortions now that they cannot access legal services.

I hope our politicians are made aware of how many girls are self-aborting in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Dr. Lester Minto, owner of Reproductive Services of Harlingen. In a story from Al Jazeera America, Dr. Minto discussed how his patients had told him if his clinic closed, they would resort to something illegal.

In another report this week by RH Reality Check, evidence has shown that self-induction was already more common in Texas than other states around the country before HB 2. With abortion-inducing drugs more accessible across the US-Mexican border, this seems to be the obvious choice for those who have been left with next to nothing. Stomach ulcer drugs like misoprostol and Cytotec are some options people have used for self-induced abortions, but there are other methods being used such as herbs, laxatives, or more physically invasive methods such as inserting objects.

Read more on what Texans have had to resort to below the jump.As reported previously, when oral arguments were heard in the Fifth Circuit Court about HB 2, the burden of travel was questioned for those living in the Rio Grande Valley, who are now without an abortion provider. However, Judge Edith Jones dismissed any undue burden on anyone seeking an abortion in the Valley because the roads were “peculiarly flat” and not “congested.”

Those lucky enough to have the appropriate funds or documentation can travel to Corpus Christi or San Antonio for a legal abortion provided in a clinic, which requires hundreds of miles to be driven. This hardly takes into consideration the need for housing or childcare during the many required doctor visits to obtain an abortion.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that self-induction is a more likely choice for those living along the U.S.-Mexican border. In a study by the Guttmacher Institute, 2.6% of 9,493 respondents reported attempting to self-induce, while clinics along the border found that 12% of their patients reported attempting to self-induce.

Online resources such as Women on Waves provide informational guides for self-induction for people in countries where abortion is illegal, which is where they do most of their work. However, they have discussed the accessibility of drugs such as misoprostol along the Texas-Mexico border, but have emphasized that inducing an abortion is a crime in the US if the medicines are not received from a medical professional. While RH Reality Check looked into the availability of abortion-inducing drugs at border flea markets, they found no such results, which has been the same for others.

“This law is backfiring,” Dr. Minto told Al Jazeera America. Dr. Minto has been complying with the law ever since it went into effect, but that he will do whatever it takes to keep helping pregnant Texans. This unfortunate state of affairs does not come to a surprise to those who knew the barriers HB 2 would create, but still remains as a sad reality to face and a long journey to overcome for those such as people in the Rio Grande Valley who are forced to carry the burden.

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