Texas abortion law has led some people to get abortion pills from Mexico, with serious consequences: NPR

Since Texas passed its anti-abortion law, more and more women are getting abortion pills from unregulated pharmacies in Mexican border towns, where they are freely sold without a prescription.



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Since Texas passed an anti-abortion law in September, more women are going to unregulated pharmacies in Mexican border towns to get abortion pills. As NPR’s John Burnett reports, this last-ditch option could be a sign of what’s to come for many more if the Supreme Court overturns Roe against Wade.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: The main street of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico — just across the lazy Rio Grande from Weslaco, Texas — is a chaotic border bazaar that caters to American day-trippers.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hey sir, are you looking for something? Dental surgery…

BURNETT: Prescription glasses, dental fillings, switchblades, tequila shots and over-the-counter medications.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Pharmacy?

BURNETT: Here you can buy many drugs from pharmacies without a prescription, including the pills that have transformed the way women end their pregnancies. Today, more than half of all abortions in the United States are performed by what is called a medical abortion, as opposed to a traditional surgical abortion. The FDA has approved mifepristone and misoprostol as safe and effective in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

A Garcia Pharmacy employee named Walter Garza noticed a surge in a certain clientele.

WALTER GARZA: You should see how many girls come to try for an abortion. Many – like, crazy.

BURNETT: He says the combination of two pills, plus his consultation on how to use them, cost $400. But he is not a doctor. He’s not even a pharmacist.

And where did you learn to give them advice – medical advice?

GARZA: A doctor, you know (laughs)?

BURNETT: The doctor told you.

GARZA: Yeah.

BURNETT: But you’re not trained to give them advice.

GARZA: No. No I’m not.

BURNETT: A Texas law that went into effect last September virtually bans abortions after six weeks. And with the United States Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v. Wade, these bans should become more common nationally. A woman in the Rio Grande Valley who wants to get to a clinic with the fewest restrictions has to drive 14 hours to Las Cruces, NM, or she can drive half an hour to the border and visit a Mexican pharmacy. .

Under the new law, doctors in Texas are prohibited from prescribing abortion pills. Planned Parenthood and other organizations have posted detailed information online about how to take abortion pills and what to expect, but some customers may simply rely on the pharmacy clerk for their information.

CARLA ANGULO-PASEL: And the problem with that, of course, becomes the regulatory aspect.

BURNETT: Carla Angulo-Pasel is a political scientist at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

ANGULO-PASEL: We don’t know if they’ve been approved by the FDA, and then you have the problem of not even needing a prescription, so there’s no real medical attention given to these women. Women are just – you know, out of desperation.

BURNETT: There can be complications, says Dr. Roberto Diaz-Gonzalez, obstetrician-gynecologist at Brownsville Community Health Center.

ROBERTO DIAZ-GONZALEZ: Probably the most common complication with the drug will be incomplete abortion. This means that not all tissues have come out. And if the patient does not go for treatment, it can create an infection.

BURNETT: With Texas’ tough anti-abortion law, women in the Rio Grande Valley got a taste of a post-Roe world, but activists resisted. Nancy Cardenas-Pena is the Texas State Director for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice.

NANCY CARDENAS PENA: People in red states still deserve access to abortion care, and so we will continue to fight every step of the way in places like the Rio Grande Valley.

BURNETT: She offers two examples of pushing back. When the city of Edinburgh, Texas tried to declare itself a “sanctuary for the unborn” last summer, after hours of public comment against the ordinance, it came to nothing. And last month, when a 26-year-old woman was arrested and jailed for murder in Rio Grande City for having an abortion, the abortion rights community intervened to secure her release. Eventually, the charges were dropped.

John Burnett, NPR News, McAllen, TX.

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