Limited Abortion Access Endangers South Texas Women

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One year after Wendy Davis filibustered HB 2, the abortion restrictions are unsurprisingly affecting women of color and low-income women disproportionately.

Last week, The Atlantic reported on the rise of unsupervised medical abortion performed by women in South Texas using misoprostol purchased at flea markets.

Misoprostol, which is available over-the-counter in Mexico, can be used as an abortifacient during the first trimester of pregnancy.

After the omnibus abortion legislation passed in 2013, women in Texas seeking a medical abortion must endure four doctor's visits and a 24-hour waiting period to take the pills.

Read more about the rise of unsupervised, DIY abortions after the jump.The author, Erica Hellerstein describes her attempt to obtain misoprostol at the Alamo Flea Market in the Valley. She talked to flea market vendor Jeff Lopez, who said that he hasn't sold misoprostol since the police raided flea markets in the RGV.

Lopez said that prior to the raids, the demand for misoprostol was extremely high in the Valley:

“When I first found out how many women were asking for it, I couldn't believe it,” he recalls. “The market had tons of people selling the pill, and I still got asked for it so many times. Almost every time I was here, someone asked me for it.”

Lopez's experience was common. There seemed to be a consensus among nearly everyone I interviewed-from health educators to Valley residents-that if abortion providers remain shut, women will continue to look for miso.

If a woman wants to abort, she's going to abort,” says Lucy Felix, a Valley-based promotora, or health educator, at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Medical abortion is one of the safest and most effective methods of terminating a pregnancy when supervised by a medical professional. According to Hellerstein, misoprostol first gained popularity as an abortifacient in Brazil. She writes, “As miso became more popular, Latin American doctors from Peru to Brazil started noticing a trend: They were seeing, it seemed, a dramatic decrease in abortion-related complications. Fewer women were carted through hospital doors with gruesome infections from back-alley botched abortions, and ob-gyns saw a reduction in the grisly abortion complications that had so frequently plagued providers, including perforated uteruses, heavy bleeding, and fallen intestines, according to a 2012 study by the global health organization Ipas.”

However, due to the recent crackdown on medications like misoprostol smuggled across the border, women's access to the drug is once again diminishing. Although U.S. citizens in the Valley sometimes cross the border to purchase and consume misoprostol in Mexico, undocumented women are turning to more more dangerous methods of self-performed abortion.

Additionally, as more and more Texas women turn to black market drugs for a “DIY” abortion, they run the risk of taking too much or too little of the drug.

The correct method of taking misoprostol as an abortifacient can be found here and here.

Hellerstein's article demonstrates once again that HB 2 and similar abortion restrictions do nothing to reduce the number of women who need or seek abortions.

Rather, they eliminate access to safe abortions, forcing women to turn to illegal drugs and back-alley clinics.

Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.


About Author

Natalie San Luis

Natalie is a native Texan, a feminist, and a writer, focusing on reproductive justice, race, and pop culture. When she's not writing (and sometimes when she is), she's brewing beer, drinking beer, and reading stuff on the Internet. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, xoJane, The Billfold, Culturemap, and E3W Review of Books. She tweets from @nsanluis.

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