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Texas Abortion Providers Fear They May Not Survive New Regulations



Dr. Lester Minto at his clinic in Harlingen, which provides preventative care as well as abortions

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Protestors outside of Reproductive Services of Harlingen

With an influx of displaced clients from centers forced to shut down, the remaining clinics—such as the lone ASC in San Antonio—are set to experience an overflow of patients. In a domino effect, women pushed to the surviving centers will likely see longer wait times to get an appointment and delayed procedure dates, causing them to possibly undergo abortion later in the pregnancy, which is associated with a higher risk of complications, TxPEP researchers say.

That’s assuming women make the trip.

The TxPEP researchers predict some women may instead choose to physically self-induce their abortion or use black-market methods such as purchasing the abortion drug Misoprostol in Mexico or from flea markets, a trend already appearing in Texas according to a 2010 Reproductive Health Matters study.

Health care providers confirm the suspicions. Minto routinely sees Valley women opt for cheaper pills found in flea markets and Hagstrom Miller says she’s already noticing an increase in women trying to self-abort since the 2011 sonogram law at her McAllen location on the Texas-Mexico border as well as at her center in Beaumont, where the next closest abortion clinic is 350 miles away.

“In both communities I’ve seen women buying abortion medication on the black market and trying to self-induce,” said Hagstrom Miller. “Making two visits, and paying for child care and travel is too much for them with the laws already in place. As these new restrictions come down the pike—I don’t want to get too dramatic— but I’m already seeing a pre-Roe situation.”

Paula Saldana, a health instructor with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, educates Valley women about their options. The deep, pervasive Catholicism in the region and the traditional cultural mores leave many women fearful of exposing their identities when discussing abortion, she said.

“It’s always a friend or a cousin,” observed Saldana. “It’s never them. No one wants to talk about it, because it’s taboo.”

Most of the stories she hears are of women crossing over to Mexico for abortion medication—only a few can afford the prices at Valley clinics, which are below costs at other centers around the state. For as low as $15 a pill, unsupervised pharmaceuticals sold at flea markets are economically accessible for women, some of whom “don’t have running water in their communities,” says Saldana. Contributing to the inaccessibility of safe, legal abortion, the population’s undocumented immigrants can’t make the trek north past Border Patrol or move south to Mexico out of worry that they may be caught and unable to return to Texas.

“The number of unwanted pregnancies is going to go up for sure and the women that decide to go through with an abortion will be putting their life in danger,” she claimed.

Posada with Planned Parenthood recounted the story of a Brownsville woman who came to Planned Parenthood wanting a pregnancy test to see if she was “still pregnant.”

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