Abortion Pill Available Across The Mexican Border Remains An Option For Texas Women

Misoprostol or Cytotec, a miscarriage-inducing abortion pill
As restrictive abortion legislation threatens to shut down the majority of abortion clinics in Texas, many Texan women may turn to pills available in Mexico to induce miscarriages themselves. Wikimedia commons (CC BY-SA 2.

A miscarriage-inducing pill could be the only option for many Texas women with unwanted pregnancies.

Following the sweeping restrictions passed Friday night by the Texas senate, health centers are contemplating the troubling implications that would attend the closing of all abortion clinics. According to The New York Times, some opine that the prohibitive legislature will force women to cross the Mexican border for a so-called "abortion pill."

"This law will lead a lot more women to try self-abortion," a patient at the Whole Woman's Health center in McAllen, Tex., told reporters.

Misoprostol, which is marketed under brand name Cytotec as a pill to "bring back a woman's period," is openly available in Mexico at discount prices, and induces abortions about 85 percent of the time. The compound is commonly used in legal medical abortions in the United States, where it is administered together with a steroid that breaks down the uterine lining.

Now, the drug is becoming available covertly at certain flea markets in Texas.

"The women see it as 'a pill to make my period come,' " said Andrea Ferrigno, a vice president of Whole Woman's Health. "Often in their minds, it's not abortion."

But health experts worry, as the pharmacies distributing the pill provide disparate regimens, many of which are deemed unsafe by doctors. In addition, getting the pill within the U.S. could pose further risks.

"The only option left for many women will be to go get those pills at a flea market," said Lucy Felix, a community educator with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. "Some of them will end up in the E.R."

The hotly debated abortion bill, which has already been subject to vociferous testimony and an 11-hour filibuster, effectively shutters clinics across the state by mandating a series of cumbersome restrictions, including an ambulatory surgical center standard that in many cases cannot be met.

"They will close us down," Dr. Lester Minto, owner the Reproductive Services clinic in Harlingen, told The New York Times. The center fails to meet the new requirement for wider hallways to accommodate stretchers in an emergency –– despite the fact that the clinic, like most in Texas, only performs procedures through the 15th week of pregnancy, and has in nine years only sent two women to the hospital. The clinic uses either medication or a suction method that requires no incisions.

Provided that the new regulations survives legal challenges, women in need of an abortion may have to travel long distances to clinics that meet the standards set forth by the bill. This will likely impact low-income women, who will be less likely to afford these new, auxiliary expenses of attending the two required visits.

To address the lack of abortion clinics, organizations like Planned Parenthood may have to step in and try to raise the $1.5 million or more necessary to build a new clinic that meets the stringent standards.

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