Flea markets are a one-stop place where people can get every-day necessities, often at a low price or second-hand. Among clothing, food, and furniture a Texas women can also find pills that induce miscarriage, an evocative sign of the role of family planning in everyday life. The pills, known by their brand name, Cytotec, were designed to prevent stomach ulcers, but are being taken without a prescription by many Texan women and causing complications such as extended bleeding and incomplete abortions.
In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a region along the southeastern border of Mexico, these pills are reportedly popular. One of the states and nation’s most low-income areas, women of the Valley have already had difficulty accessing reproductive health care after the state cut funding for birth control in 2011.
HB 2, the Texas abortion bill that is awaiting Governor Rick Perry’s signature will further restrict access to family planning and reproductive health clinics across the state. Unless clinics meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical center standards within a year, these locations will be forced to close, pushing women to seek risky alternatives. The two clinics currently in the Lower Rio Grande Valley do not meet the requirement of the bill. If these centers close down, women will have to travel hours across that state to receive care and will have additional costs such as transportation, hotel, food, missed work, and childcare.
Erlinda Dasquez, a 29 year-old mother of four who has used the pills, sees the widespread desire for these pills an economic issue. She described how for $40 she received four pills, a sum much less than the $550 pharmaceutical abortion cost at the closest legal provider. Many women and families like Dasquez seek illegal and unsafe forms of abortion due to the staggering costs of abortion which are typically not covered or subsidized by insurance companies or the state. Many undocumented women are also taking Cytotec and similar drugs. These women cannot utilize traditional health care outlets for fear of being reported.
The clinics that are being threatened do not solely provide abortion services. Many of these facilities are a source of free or inexpensive birth control for families, a valuable resource. Without assistance, many low-income people cannot justify paying the amount for contraceptives among other economic priorities. When interviewed, Alma Saldana said, “If I had $100 to pay for birth control or pay the bill for lights, I’d pay the lights”. Saldana stopped taking birth control after two nearby clinics closed and the remaining clinic charged more than she could afford.