New 'Pro Life' Laws Force Women to Go to Mexico for Health Care

In their continuing efforts to fix the economy, over the last year and a half or so, cage-rattling, game-changing conservative lawmakers have passed a record number of bills regulating banks and out of control financial institutions women's access to medical care. And since it's illegal to personally break into individual ladies' homes and steal their birth control or make it illegal for women to have sex without God's supervision, they've done the more efficient thing and focused on making abortion as inconvenient as possible for the women choosing it and eliminating affordable women's health care at the source — low-cost OB/GYN clinics and other women's health care providers. In at least two states, we're starting to see the effects of these "pro-life" efforts — and they're pretty fucking depressing.

In Tennessee, lawmakers passed a law requiring all doctors at abortion providing clinics have admitting privileges at a local hospital — a condition framers of such legislation often tell the public is for women's own good, but tell their frothy anti-abortion rights voting base is for the sole purpose of eliminating abortion by targeting providers (we saw a lot of this in Mississippi earlier this year). Well, in Tennessee, the law is working just as lawmakers not-so-secretly intended — the Volunteer Women's Medical Center in Knoxville was just closed down this week because it was unable to pay its bills while it scrambled to comply with the state's Life Defense Act. According to the clinic's director, a doctor at the clinic had recently obtained admitting privileges, but died before he was able to begin seeing patients in compliance with the law.

Meanwhile, in Texas, lawmakers intent on preserving life and keeping women healthy there have forced many of the state's cowgirls to travel to Mexico for abortion and pregnancy care. The state's Governor Rick Perry, who I always picture grinning in that Dick Tracy villain way of his, has championed legislation that barred Planned Parenthood from participating in the state's Women's Health Program, a mostly-federally-funded effort to make reproductive and sexual health services available to Texas' many low income, uninsured women. The federal government and courts rejected the Texas law on the grounds that it interfered with Planned Parenthood's freedom of speech (Cliff's Notes version: the arm of Planned Parenthood that provides abortions, in Texas, is a completely separate entity from the one that receives federal or state funds and has been for many years, and Texas was penalizing the non-abortion providing arm of Planned Parenthood for loosely associating with the abortion arm of the organization and discussing abortion as an option for pregnant women). In response, Perry threw the ladies out with the bathwater and threatened to shut down the Women's Health Care Program entirely. And if what he wanted to do was make life more difficult for women, mission accomplished.

Perry's antics have already caused more than 60 women's health clinics to shut down. Forty-eight of those do not provide abortion care services and are completely unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood. According to Think Progress, most of the clinics that closed their doors are located in the panhandle, in Central Texas, or on the border with Mexico, which means that for many women those clinics served, there are no alternatives.

But it gets worse. According to the Texas Tribune, the mass shuttering of women's health care clinics combined with Texas' new law requiring an ultrasound 24 hours before abortion procedures has driven women to Mexico for their reproductive health needs, which has proven dangerous. In Mexico, abortion is illegal everywhere except in the capitol, but the drug commonly used for medicinal abortions here in the states isn't. In fact, it's available over the counter as a treatment for ulcers. Many pharmacists in northern Mexican cities haven't been trained on how the drug can be used for pregnancy termination, and so women who take the drug don't know how to properly administer it. From the Tribune:

In July, at one of the many pharmacies lining the main street in Nuevo Progreso, a town across the border from Weslaco, Jose Alfredo Acosta was selling Cytotec for $153 per box. The package contained 28 pills, each about 200 micrograms. The informational insert did not include directions for self-induced abortion, but Acosta said he knew that was why many women bought the medication.

"If I see that a girl is too young, I won't sell it," he said, citing stories he had heard of girls hemorrhaging after using the pills. "I try my best to explain the consequences, but there's only so much I can do."

One abortion provider in Texas noted that in addition to taking the pill unsafely, many women, without guidance on how to take the medicine, won't take enough of it and will remain pregnant, which could lead to improper prenatal care and a whole host of post birth problems for the baby.

How exactly are we protecting women by making health care more dangerous and less available to them? And how exactly is this leading us charging toward recovery? It's not clear how America will Get Awesome Again if only poor women can't get birth control pills and are forced to be pregnant when they're not prepared to have another child, but I'm not an economics expert.

[Texas Tribune]