The few reproductive health options women in the Rio Grande Valley have are dwindling: Recent raids on the RGV's biggest flea market have pushed contraception and abortifacient providers out.
After multiple family planning and abortion clinics closed, more women began seeking misoprostol, a drug commonly available in Mexican pharmacies and frequently transported across the border.
While misoprostol is not the ideal replacement for legal abortion care supervised by a doctor, it is one of the safer methods of self-inducing abortion.
But, as MSNBC reported this week, after the Sheriff of Hidalgo County charged nine market vendors with selling prescription drugs like diet pills and Viagra, birth control and misoprostol have disappeared from the markets.
Read more after the jump.The two reproductive health clinics that provided abortions in the RGV were forced to close in March.
And since the 2011 legislature cut funds to family planning, several women's health clinics that do not provide abortions have shuttered.
For many women, one-day clinics like the one Planned Parenthood operates at the San Juan Community Center are the only opportunity to access contraception, Pap smears, and breast exams. Flea market contraception and abortifacients were crucial for women in the RGV where social services were disappearing.
Across Latin America, the availability of the abortion drug misoprostol, packaged by Pfizer as Cytotec and officially intended for ulcers, has been a game-changer for women who want to end their pregnancies without surgical intervention. The drug carries risks, but nothing like older and more violent means of self-inducing.
“The mortality rate has dramatically decreased because women have been able to buy misoprostol on the black market,” said Kirsten Sherk, a senior advisor at Ipas, which works on access to safe abortion internationally.
But with the recent raid on the RGV's largest outdoor market and the Sheriff's investigaton, women are forced to wait for months for an appointment at one of the few remaining clinics or cross the border to a Mexican pharmacy, which could be dangerous, particularly for undocumented women.
Photo courtesy of MSNBC.