A woman is unemployed. She has two boys. She’s a single mother, and she suffers from a rare form of diabetes but isn’t able to afford the medication. Oh, and did I mention that she’s starting to suspect that she’s pregnant? This is the tragic story with which Laura Tillman opens her latest article in The Nation. Tillman recalls the woman saying, “I thought, If I am pregnant, I want to take something to not be pregnant.”
Unfortunately, things are not so simple for this woman, Diana. She lives in Brownsville, Texas, just north of the border, and a combination of her small, conservative community, her Catholic family, and extreme expense makes a trip to the abortion clinic, thirty miles away, impossible. Although abortion is legal and ostensibly accessible, Tillman writes, “a trip to the abortion clinic amounts to a damnable transgression.” Many women don’t even realize that it’s legal.
For women like Diana, a trip to a Mexican pharmacy, where abortion drugs (mostly likely Misoprostol), are cheap and readily available, is far more feasible. Women will go buy the drugs themselves, or have a friend go, and take the medication without any further guidance. If they’re lucky, they’ll have what looks like a miscarriage; if they’re not, their uterus could rupture and bring about internal bleeding.
Tillman writes eloquently about towns like Brownsville, which are all too common throughout the United States. Read alongside a recent study that revealed that people in places with restricted abortion access are more likely to google “abortion,” we have yet more concrete proof that women in these places still need to access abortion, even if it’s highly stigmatized. These are places where it’s far easier to say “miscarriage” than “abortion.” And for pregnant women, the choice to walk into a clinic can often mean public shame and ridicule. These women don’t have relationships with doctors they trust; they can’t afford expensive procedures. Drugs like Misoprostol are preferable because they are cheap, private, and aren’t necessarily connected to abortion.
Until abortion is destigmatized and made completely affordable and accessible, these self-induced abortions will continue. And although Misoprostol is better than some earlier methods for DIY abortions, women’s lives will be at risk until every woman who needs one can afford a safe abortion under a medical professional’s care.
Photo from Flickr.