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At least 100,000 Texans of reproductive age have attempted to self-induce an abortion

There’s long been anecdotal evidence that with ever-increasing barriers to accessing in-clinic abortions, many Texans, particularly low-income Latinas living near the US-Mexico border, are turning to self-induced abortions. Now, a new study estimates that 100,000 and 240,000 Texans of reproductive age have ever attempted to end a pregnancy without medical assistance

The report comes from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which has previously explored other consequences of the anti-choice laws that have slashed the number of clinics in the state in recent years: Half of Texas women now struggle to get reproductive health care and family planning services, the legal abortion rate has decreased by 13 percent, and wait times to get the procedure have increased to 20 days in some cities.

And their most recent finding is, of course, a natural outgrowth of the previous ones: If you need an abortion and getting one at a clinic seems impossible, you’ll try to figure out an alternative. According to interviews with women who’d tried to self-induce, the four main reasons for doing so are “financial constraints to travel to a clinic or to pay for the procedure, local clinic closures, recommendation from a close friend or family member to self-induce, or efforts to avoid the stigma or shame of going to an abortion clinic.”

The researchers note that the prevalence of self-induced abortion may be significantly higher in Texas than elsewhere in the US, not just because of the onerous restrictions on legal abortion access there but also because it shares a border with Mexico, where misoprostol — the only self-induced method that’s actually very effective — is available in pharmacies without a perscription. Used correctly, self-inducing an abortion with misoprostol is safe — far safer than the back-alley abortions of yore — and I think it’s important to share information about how to utilize this method. But we shouldn’t have to — it’s outrageous that in 2015, in the United States, hundreds of thousands of women have been so abandoned by the medical system that they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands — particularly since they can be criminalized for it.

The Supreme Court will soon determine whether Texas’s anti-choice laws are constitutional. As Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights says in a press release, “If these regulations are allowed to stand others like them will inevitably follow, threatening to drag our country back to the perilous days before Roe and endangering women’s lives.”

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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