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Texas’ Anti-Abortion Bill Threatens To Increase ‘Flea Market Abortions’

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"Texas’ Anti-Abortion Bill Threatens To Increase ‘Flea Market Abortions’"

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State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX) speaks during a rally against proposed abortion restrictions. (Credit: Jay Janner/AP)

While media coverage of the ongoing debate on a bill to restrict the ability of women in Texas to get abortions has centered around a provision banning abortions after 20 weeks, parts of the bill that would likely reduce the number of clinics in the state from 47 to five have gone underreported.

Very few abortions actually occur after 20 weeks. But the closing of clinics would affect the ability of all Texas women to get safe, affordable abortions at any stage in their pregnancies.

And even now, without the proposed restrictions, Texas already imposes many barriers to reproductive care. Bloomberg reports on the scary options women are turning to with their access to abortion restricted:

At an open-air flea market outside McAllen, Texas, near the Mexican border, shoppers can buy a goat and get their car windows tinted. Tables with handwritten signs touting Viagra are stocked with herbal remedies promising to burn fat and boost breast size. You can also find pills to end a pregnancy.

Bazaars like this have become home to a thriving black market, where women too poor to afford an abortion at a clinic or deterred by state mandates such as a 24-hour waiting period can buy drugs to induce a miscarriage on their own, a dozen area residents and doctors said in interviews.

Hundreds of miles north in Austin, the capital, lawmakers may inadvertently increase this illegal trade. Rules set to pass as soon as this week might result in the closing of most, if not all, abortion facilities in the state. If the law — promoted as a way to improve women’s health — makes legal abortion unavailable in Texas, more women may turn to markets such as the one near McAllen and risk their lives.

Texas women have turned to Cytotec, a pill used to prevent stomach ulcers, to induce abortions for much cheaper than they can be obtained at a clinic. But they are also significantly more dangerous: Bloomberg’s story centers on Erlinda Dasquez, who took a second pill after her first attempt failed, and then bled for a month.

The report focuses on women — many of whom are poor and Hispanic — in the lower Rio Grande Valley, at the southern tip of the state. If the bill passes, those women would be forced to travel well north, likely to Austin or San Antonio, to access the nearest abortion clinic. “Only people with money go to clinics,” a community health instructor told Bloomberg. If the two clinics currently serving the lower Rio Grande Valley close, it will take even more money to get to one.

Conservatives have seized on the case of illegal abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, attempting to equate the Philadelphia doctor’s crimes with all safe, legal abortions. In fact, under bills like the one advancing in Texas, more and more women will be forced to turn to dangerous options like Gosnell and Cytotec.

Joseph Diebold is an intern with ThinkProgress.

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