July 1, 2014 — As Texas and other states implement restrictions on abortion access, women have sought to obtain misoprostol through a black market, The Atlantic reports. For instance, women in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, which borders Mexico, can find the medication -- colloquially called miso -- at a flea market, according to The Atlantic.
Misoprostol originally was marketed and created as an ulcer medication, not as an abortion medication. According to The Atlantic, "Word of misoprostol [as an abortion medication] spread at the grassroots level, working its way up from Brazil and snaking from one Latin American country to another."
FDA approved medication abortion in 2000. In the U.S., misoprostol is used in combination with mifepristone for early nonsurgical abortions. In 2011, medication abortion accounted for 36% of all abortions before nine weeks of gestation, The Atlantic reports.
Medication abortion is available only through a prescription in the U.S. Misoprostol is available without prescription in Mexico, and it is smuggled over the border and sold, The Atlantic reports. The drug can also be found online, but the pills are often counterfeit.
Obtaining misoprostol at flea markets instead of seeking care at an abortion clinic has become more convenient for Rio Grande Valley women, according to The Atlantic. Restrictions implemented under a recent law (HB 2) contributed to the closure of 12 of the state's 40 clinics, The Atlantic reports. For women in the Rio Grande Valley, the closest abortion clinic is 150 miles away, while the flea market is closer. If women "know who to approach and what to ask for" they can obtain misoprostol at the flea market, according to sources The Atlantic spoke with.
Lucy Felix, a health educator at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said if clinics continue to close, women are going to seek other means to obtain abortion care. "If a woman wants to abort, she's going to abort," she said.
There are concerns about whether women in the Rio Grande Valley are using misoprostol correctly, because most do not have information about proper dosage, and efforts to educate them are limited because of the nature in which they are obtaining the drug, The Atlantic reports (Hellerstein, The Atlantic, 6/27).