News Abortion

As Do It Yourself Abortions Rise, So Does Guesswork And Failure

Robin Marty

Without the ability to access safe, legal abortion -- due to restrictions or stigma -- women will turn to whatever they can find.

More women are heading to Mexico to buy abortion-inducing drugs, the New York Times reports, and it’s opening them up to failed terminations and other dangers.

Dan Grossman, an obstetrician-gynecologist who is vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health and an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, stressed that misoprostol was a safe drug when used properly, for example to prevent bleeding during labor and to control uterine contractions.

“The biggest risk for these women is that it’s not going to be effective” at ending their pregnancies, he said. A woman for whom the drug doesn’t work might well not know it, he added. “She could potentially have a continuing pregnancy and not get a follow-up.”

Indeed, many health providers also say that women crossing into Mexico to buy misoprostol are ignoring important follow-up care.

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Abortion-rights advocates are concerned that a lack of awareness about clinical options in the United States — as well as a lack of funds — could lead more women to go underground and risk their health in this way. In 2011, Texas lawmakers made deep cuts in financing for family planning for low-income women. And a new law that requires a woman seeking an abortion to receive a sonogram 24 hours ahead of the procedure — that is, to make at least two visits to the abortion clinic — may be prompting some to seek alternate abortion methods.

Women Ms. Banda talked to who sought out misoprostol in Mexico, she said, were looking for “the least invasive option, both medically and personally.”

The article looks primarily at Texas, but there is little doubt that as restrictions grow throughout the country, the practice is spreading.  As the Jennie Linn McCormack case reminds us, those who aren’t close to the boarder always have access to the internet.

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