JUAREZ, Texas (Border Report) – It took Border Report only two tries to get a pharmacist in Juarez to dispense a 28-count blue box of misoprostol without a doctor’s prescription.
Mexico classifies the drug as a treatment for duodenal ulcers, but the instructions warn the pills can cause pregnant women to have a spontaneous abortion, lead to premature delivery or cause birth defects.
Some officials fear the sale of this product will increase here as states like Texas permanently clamp down on abortions after Friday’s historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
“From a medical point of view, it’s important to warn that not all (women) can get these unassisted treatments, especially if their period is irregular or they don’t know when they became pregnant,” said Dr. Lorenzo Soberanes, president of the medical cluster of the Juarez Chamber of Commerce. “If the medication they came to look for is used 10 weeks after conception, the risk to these women is great.”
Thousands of Americans cross the border every year for medical, dental or cosmetic procedures in Juarez, which are cheaper than in the United States. Many more come to buy medication – from blood pressure pills to appetite-suppressing amphetamines to $3 generic Viagra.
U.S. officials were not immediately available to comment on whether Americans can legally bring back Misoprostol. However, Food and Drug Administration and U.S. laws apply to any medication brought across the border. Also, some officials are concerned about possible manufacturing variants on pills made across the border.
Soberones said abortion remains severely restricted in 23 out of 32 federal entities (eight states and Mexico City) in Mexico, including Chihuahua. The procedure is reserved for women whose life is placed in danger by the pregnancy or, after rigorous vetting, victims of rape and other extraneous circumstances, he said.
But the medication that the Planned Parenthood website describes as an “abortion pill” has been sold here for years.
Pro-choice American politicians like U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, lament that the Supreme Court decision will deprive many women in Texas of the choice of what to do with their bodies.
“We live in a tri-state region with Chihuahua and New Mexico,” Escobar said on Friday. “I understand that women are looking for these services in New Mexico and Mexico. I don’t know the rules for every state in Mexico, but I know in New Mexico there are doctors that are helping women.”
And while the conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court is allowing states to curtail abortion, the Mexican Supreme Court last year decriminalized the act of getting an abortion and let its states regulate institutional practices. So far, Chihuahua hasn’t budged.
“More than legislating, what we need is to generate the education and the culture for women’s care,” Soberanes said.
Juarez residents on Friday had mixed feelings about U.S. residents coming over to get abortion pills and abortion in general.
“Their lives are at risk… but I’m in favor and I’m against,” said Celia Reza. “If the abortion is needed, then go ahead. Everyone is in control of their bodies and free to do what they want.”
But, “it’s wrong that they come to buy (abortion pills) over here,” said Maria de Jesus Gomez. “Abortion is wrong. It’s a bad choice. That’s why protection exists – to not have children. That’s my opinion.
Editor’s note: The medication acquired by Border Report staff was not brought across the U.S. border and was destroyed.