Political Animal

Blog

January 05, 2014 6:12 PM Ulcer drugs are the new coat hangers: how Texas’s draconian new abortion law encourages women to take dangerous risks with their health

By Kathleen Geier

On Friday, Ed briefly mentioned a new report about abortion restrictions in the states. I’d like to follow up on that. The report was issued by the Guttmacher Institute, and some of its disturbing findings include the following:

—There were more abortion restrictions enacted in the states between 2011 and 2013 than in the entire previous decade.

— In 2013 alone, 70 provisions restricting abortion were enacted in 22 states.

— Today, 56 percent of American women now live in states that are considered “hostile” to abortion. This contrasts to the year 2000, when only 31 percent of American women lived in abortion-hostile states.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Beyerstein has written an excellent piece about what it’s like for women who are living with these oppressive anti-choice policies. Beyerstein reports from Texas, where last year, Governor Rick Perry signed a billed that “requires that all abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital, mandates an outdated protocol for medication abortions and bans all abortions after 20 weeks.” An appeals court is due to hear a challenge to this measure tomorrow.

The new law means that abortion is far less accessible — that, of course, was the point. Some dozen cilnics in Texas have stopped providing abortions. The result is a disturbing rise in self-induced abortions — only instead of resorting to coat hangers, women are using medication:

Some women resort to self-induced medication abortions with the ulcer drug misoprostol, widely used in Latin America to terminate early pregnancies. Though it is available only by prescription in the United States, misoprostol can easily be purchased at pharmacies across the border in Mexico or at flea markets in the Valley. WWHM saw about one failed misoprostol self-induced abortion a day.

Lester Minto is a doctor who is now legally barred from performing abortions because he lacks hospital privileges. However, that hasn’t prevented him from offering abortion assistance of a sort:

Legally, he says, he can’t tell women where to get misoprostol, but he doesn’t have to. The pills work about two-thirds of the time, he says, and the remaining third must have outpatient surgery to complete the miscarriage. Minto estimated that by mid-December, he had seen about 200 women since the law went into effect and that roughly 100 of them returned to have him complete their abortions.
“I hope our politicians are made aware of how many girls are self-aborting in the Rio Grande Valley,” Minto says. “This law is backfiring.”

It’s ironic that people who so zealously advocate for such laws because of their devotion to the sanctity of “life” in reality exhibit such contemptuous disregard for the lives and health of women. They don’t think much about the real-life consequences of banning abortion, do they?

Then again, they don’t seem to ever have given the issue of abortion any serious consideration whatsoever. This moment is extremely telling, and it’s stayed with me.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

(You may use HTML tags for style)

comments powered by Disqus