More Than 100,000 Texan Women Have Tried To Induce Their Own Abortion

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman

Texas Latina Advocacy Network staff and supporters demonstrate outside the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015,

New research paints a bleak picture of what could be in store for U.S. women if the Supreme Court upholds an abortion law that makes it more difficult for health clinics to remain open.

Somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 women of reproductive age living in Texas have tried to end their pregnancy entirely on their own, without any medical assistance, according to a group of policy researchers. Most of these women either used home remedies, like herbs or vitamins, or went across the border to Mexico to buy misoprostol, the drug used in U.S. clinics to terminate a pregnancy.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) — a research group based at the University of Texas that’s been tracking the state’s reproductive health policy over the past four years — released this information to illustrate the detrimental impact a recent slew of abortion clinics closures has had on its population.

“As clinic-based care becomes harder to access in Texas, we can expect more women to feel that they have no other option and take matters into their own hands,” said Daniel Grossman, a TxPEP co-investigator and Professor in Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

This void in medical care was sparked by a controversial 2013 state law, HB 2, that shuttered of 30 of the state’s 48 abortion clinics with new regulations disguised as health policy, but actually created to restrict access to abortion. As of last Friday, this law is now on its way to a Supreme Court decision — meaning that, if it’s upheld, more states may be able to enact similar laws that threaten a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

“The reality is, these laws do not prevent the need for abortion, they do not address the factors leading to unplanned pregnancy,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, the lead organization challenging the laws in the Supreme Court case. “They simply block access for women to professional medical care in their communities.”

This report comes a month after another TxPEP study that found the clinic shutdowns spurred by HB 2 have dangerously limited Texan women’s access to timely abortions.

For its most recent research, the majority of women TxPEP surveyed were poor. With so few abortion clinics in the state, many women couldn’t afford to take days off work to drive to the closest one — leaving them with few other options.

“I didn’t have any money to go to San Antonio or Corpus [Christi]. I didn’t even have any money to get across town. Like I was just dirt broke. I was poor,” explained a 24-year-old woman who was quoted in the report.

A majority of these women were also Latina, and lived close to the Mexican border. With Latina women making up 40 percent of the state’s female population, Ana Rodriguez DeFrates, policy director of the Texas Latina Advocacy Network, said this comes as no surprise.

“Due to systemic barriers, Latinas are already more likely to have an unintended pregnancy, ” DeFrates said in a Tuesday conference call.

She said that while many Latinas can’t financially afford to raise a child, the lack of options force them to carry their pregnancy to term. And if they try to end their pregnancy on their own, DeFrates said that “some will find safe methods to do so, but others will find very dangerous methods.”

However, the biggest dangers associated with self-induced abortions don’t fit the extreme “home abortion” techniques of the past that media and politicians like to drudge up. No one drank bleach, inserted anything into their uterus, or poured kerosene in their vagina. The real danger lies in the lack of understanding of how abortifacient medications work.

“Women need to have accurate information about their abortion… what to expect, etc.,” said Grossman. “Most of the women we surveyed said they would have preferred to go to a clinic than take their abortion into their own hands. This is not the ideal situation.”