Family Planning, Featured

What We’re Reading: The Rise of DIY Abortion in Texas

With the recent Supreme Court decision allowing Hobby Lobby to refuse to cover contraceptives, and state legislators all over the country slowly stripping away access to abortion rights, women in this country seem to be entering a new, dangerous era.

WWRTexas
A screenshot from the Atlantic article.

Texas is one of a growing number of states where abortion access is becoming more restricted at every stage. As a result, a recent article in The Atlantic reveals that women in South Texas are going to Mexico in pursuit of do-it-yourself (DIY) abortion medication.

Early in a pregnancy, it’s recommended to take a drug combination of misoprostol and mifepristone in order to terminate. Mifepristone is also known as RU-486, or as some would say, “the abortion drug.” Misoprostol, more commonly known as “miso,” is used to treat severe stomach irritations as well as induce abortion in combination with mifepristone.

Mifepristone is only used for inducing abortions and is only allowed in 50 countries, including Mexico. However, the farther you get from Mexico City, the less likely you are to find mifepristone, or the proper drug combination needed for a safe abortion. This is a result of Mexico City having greater financial resources, and a progressive culture around abortion procedures.

Women of my generation cannot remember a time when getting access to contraceptives and abortion care was primarily done in unlicensed settings. But as more and more clinics in Texas close down, and abortion options shrink, some American women now face a new, unthinkable reality. Women of the Southern Rio Valley are now purchasing medications from black market sellers in flea markets or pharmacies that often don’t prescribe the right combination.

Often, because mifepristone is only used for abortion, underground providers sell misoprostol instead—as it can also be used as an ulcer medication. So women in Texas are now buying pills from someone who can’t offer them the proper combination, and sometimes are taking dozens of pills in one setting. We are getting back to circumstances our mothers and grandmothers can remember all-too-clearly, and that are still too common in other places in the world where abortion is restricted—women getting severely ill or dying because of unsafe abortion.

When did it become okay to sacrifice women’s health for politics? Why does it not scare more politicians that imposing their beliefs could put lives at risk? We are not only becoming dangerously close to the days before Roe vs. Wade, we are on par to join some countries where women’s basic human rights are challenged every day. Is this really the place American policymakers want us to be? Lurking in the shadows, feeling ashamed, and taking our life into our own hands?

I’d like to say no. But sadly, their recent actions seem to say otherwise.

2 Responses to “What We’re Reading: The Rise of DIY Abortion in Texas”

  1. Jane Roberts

    I’m cofounder of 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund. They report that about 20 percent of pregnancies (200 million a years worldwide) end in abortion, i.e. 40 million and that about half of these are illegal, unsafe causing tens of thousands of deaths and about 5 million cases of injuries, hemorrhages and infections requiring post abortion care. Is south Texas and the rest of the U.S. going down that path?

  2. Kirsten Sherk

    Hellerstein’s article is a terrific read, and I’m glad to see you highlighting it! It is important to note, however, that although it is more effective in combination with mifepristone, misoprostol on its own is an effective abortifacient on its own, as well as being used to treat postpartum hemorrhage and to soften the cervix for IUD implantation. In her article, Hellerstein points out that abortion-related mortality in Latin America declined precipitously because women started taking misoprostol instead of other, more dangerous methods of ending unwanted pregnancy.

    The important point to focus on is that (as you note later in your post) women need accurate information about abortion medication, they need to know that they drugs that they are taking are not counterfeit and they need to be able to make decisions about abortion without shame.

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