Juarez restricts abortion, not pills to end pregnancy

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Doctors warn against self-medicating a drug that Mexico classifies as a treatment for intestinal ulcers

JUAREZ, Texas (Border report) – It took only two tries for Border Report to get a pharmacist in Juarez to dispense a 28-dose blue box of misoprostol without a doctor’s prescription.

Mexico classifies the drug as a treatment for duodenal ulcers, but the instructions warn that the pills can cause spontaneous abortion in pregnant women, lead to premature labor or cause birth defects.

Some officials fear sales of the product will surge here as states like Texas permanently crack down on abortions after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling was overturned on Friday. Roe vs. Wade.

“From a medical point of view, it is important to warn that not all (women) can obtain these treatments without help, especially if their periods are irregular or if they do not know when they became pregnant,” said said Dr. Lorenzo Soberanes, president of the medical pole of the Chamber of Commerce of Juarez. “If the drug they came for is used 10 weeks after conception, the risk for 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 drugs – from blood pressure pills to appetite suppressants to generic Viagra for $3.

US officials were not immediately available to say whether Americans could legally bring back misoprostol. However, the Food and Drug Administration and US laws apply to any medication transported across the border.

Soberones said abortion remains severely restricted in 23 of Mexico’s 32 states, including Chihuahua. The procedure is reserved for women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy or, after careful screening, victims of rape and other extraneous circumstances, he said.

But the drug that the family planning website described as an “abortion pill” has been sold here for years.

Pro-choice U.S. politicians like U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, lament that the Supreme Court’s ruling will rob many women in Texas of choice over what to do with their bodies.

“We live in a tri-state area with Chihuahua and New Mexico,” Escobar said Friday. “I understand that women are seeking these services in New Mexico and Mexico. I don’t know the rules for every state in Mexico, but I know that in New Mexico there are doctors who help women.

A pharmacist from Juarez holds up a box of Misoprostol. (photo from border report)

And while the conservative-dominated US Supreme Court allows states to limit abortion, Mexico’s Supreme Court last year decriminalized the act of abortion and let its states regulate institutional practices. So far, Chihuahua – a stronghold of the conservative National Action Party – has not budged.

“More than legislating, what we need is to generate education and culture for women’s care,” Soberanes said.

On Friday, residents of Juarez had mixed feelings about US residents coming to get abortion pills and abortion in general.

“Their lives are in danger… but I am for and I am against,” said Celia Reza. “If the abortion is necessary, then go for it. Everyone is in control of their body and free to do what they want.

But, “it’s wrong that they come to buy (abortion pills) here,” said Maria de Jesus Gomez. “Abortion is wrong. It’s a bad choice. That’s why the protection is there – not having children. That’s my opinion.

Editor’s Note: Drugs acquired by Border Report staff did not cross the US border.

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