Open-air flea markets, like that on the Texas border town of McAllen, sell everything from Viagra to abortion pills, reports Bloomberg. As Texas legislators pass more abortion restrictions, the illegal trade increases.
Many women who cannot afford care at a clinic end up in these black market bazaars attempting to induce a miscarriage on their own and risking their lives in the process.
“You’d be amazed at how many people, young people, are taking those pills,” Erlinda Dasquez, a 29-year-old mother of four who has taken it herself, told Bloomberg. “I probably know 12 to 20 people who have done this. My cousin just went to the flea market a few months ago.”
The four pills Dasquez took cost $40, whereas a pharmeceutical abortion from the nearest licensed provider cost $550.
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“I was scared, but I thought I didn’t have any other choice — I had to do it whatever happens,” she said. “I told my mom so, if anything goes wrong, she could bring me to the hospital or get help.”
Health care providers in the state’s poorest region claim they have seen an increase in incomplete abortions and bleeding after women take black market abortion drugs.
These underground imports are actually drugs designed for different conditions, not specifically to terminate a pregnancy. The pills, known by the brand name Cytotec, are prescribed in the prevention of stomach ulcers — miscarriage is just a side effect.
The pills are not on display in the flea market, but if a woman asks around, they can be found.
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“Only people with money go to clinics,” said Paula Saldana, a single mother and a community health instructor who volunteers to education Hispanic women about contraception.
Saldana, 36, said her sister Alma stopped taking birth control last year after the two nearest clinics closed and the only one left wanted to charge her more than she could afford. A month ago, Alma had her third child.
Cuts to the 288 clinics that offered family planning led to 56 closing and others being open just one day a week.
“If I had $100 to pay for birth control or pay the bill for lights, I’d pay the lights,” Saldana said.