Women in Texas Are Turning to Black-Market Abortion Drugs

Harsh restrictions are making it harder and harder to obtain an abortion in Texas. Let's check how things are going back here in this alley, shall we?

The Atlantic takes a long, sobering look at the impact of HB2. The number of abortion providers in the state dropped from 40 to 24. Someone living in the Rio Grande Valley might have to drive 150 miles for the procedure. Undocumented women, for example, just can't make that trip without running the risk of getting picked up. And so the market for misoprostol, sold over-the-counter in Mexico as the ulcer medicine Cytotec, is only growing.

The Atlantic explains:

In Mexico, miso is sold over the counter as an ulcer medication (in the U.S., it's only available with a prescription) creating the perfect conditions for black market sales in the United States. And while no abortion clinics remain in the Valley, the Mexican town of Reynosa is just across the nearby border. There, miso can be bought in bulk at Mexican pharmacies and snuck back over the border into Texas, where it's sold undercover at sprawling flea markets like the one I'm searching in today.

Said one occasional seller:

"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."

Black-market misoprostol isn't new; we've covered these flea markets before. Nor is Texas an isolated case; look at Louisiana.

But it's only becoming more popular as restrictions tighten, despite numerous dangers: There's no way of knowing whether the pills you've bought are legit. There's the knowledge gap—how many do you take so that you're safe, but it still works? And self-abortion is illegal in some states. Not to mention you shouldn't be forced to skulk around a goddamn flea market to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure.

Women just aren't going to stop getting abortions. Look at the lengths they'll go to in Latin America, where misoprostol has long been the underground backup:

In Chile, where abortion is illegal without exceptions, a hotline called Linea Aborto Libre has had considerable success. It's staffed by a group of young feminists who take turns passing around a compact cellphone. If they're not careful, their work could land them behind bars: Getting an abortion in Chile—or telling a woman how to do so—is a crime punishable by three to five years in jail.

Some days it feels like we're stuck on an endless escalator headed the wrong way.

Photo via AP Images.