With the influx of Republican-run state legislatures and governors, abortion rights have been under attack since the 2010 elections. We’ve seen states that try to regulate their clinics out of existence. We’ve seen the transvaginal ultrasound epidemic, that seems determined to humiliate and inconvenience women into carries pregnancies they don’t want. And we’ve seen the earliest abortion bans ever, ones that clearly fly in the face of Roe v. Wade. Couple that with the assault on Planned Parenthood, where millions of women go for reproductive health, and it’s easy to understand that getting a safe abortion is more difficult and stressful than ever. So I guess that explains why Texas women are crossing the border to buy over-the-counter ulcer medication to terminate pregnancies.
That’s right, American women who are frustrated and put off with the idea of wading through the political mess of getting a safe abortion procedure in the States are crossing the border for a Pfizer-made drug called Cytotec. The medicine is used to prevent ulcers for women, but taken in the correct dosage, and often with an added medicine called RU-468, it can induce a “medical abortion.” Cytotec is a prescription drug in the US, but it can be bought over-the-counter in Mexico.
Why is this a problem? Well, pharmacists in Texas aren’t really allowed to explain how the drug can be safely used for abortion, and buyers aren’t asking. Abortion is illegal outside of Mexico City for the country. So women are buying the drug without understanding how it can be used safely. They aren’t taking the correct dosages. They’re taking it too late, as the drug can only be safely used before a pregnancy hits nine weeks.
Clinics in the US see women who aren’t sure if their attempt was successful coming back into clinics looking for pregnancy tests. Presumably, the failed attempts result in an increased risk of complications. It’s also possible that a woman would think she had ended her pregnancy, only to find out a month later that she is still carrying a child. One woman who took the drug too late was hospitalized for hemorrhaging.
The Texas Tribune asked women why they would go across the border, instead of getting the procedure done safely here in the United States. The response hits home for anyone who has been dismayed with the recent trend in abortion rights. Women said crossing the border was, “the least invasive option, both medically and personally.”
This story is a sad reminder that women will find ways to end a pregnancy that they know they can’t endure, support or afford. They will find creative and less-than-safe ways. All of these bills being passed by privileged politicians ignore the realities of many women’s situations. They ignore that the harder you make it for women to get safe medical procedures, the more they’ll have to take their reproductive health into their own hands, sometimes with dangerous consequences.