In November 2021, a 23-year-old college student in Brazil turned to a drug dealer in the south for medical help. With abortion being illegal in Brazil, this student could not receive proper medical attention to end her eight-week pregnancy. Three weeks after contact with this drug dealer, a pack of eight blank white pills arrived in her mail, and her pregnancy was terminated.
The problems did not stop there. The college student profusely bled for weeks and was terrified to ask for help due to the laws regarding abortions in Brazil. If the student was to receive service, she would face the consequence of up to three years in prison.
“It’s the loneliest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life,” she said to the New York Times.
When the bleeding did not subside seven weeks later, she decided to go to a clinic and admit to terminating her pregnancy. The doctors at the clinic did not report her, and her severe bleeding was brought to a halt.
The student had used black market misoprostol brought in from Mexico, India, and Argentina. The black-market prices range anywhere from $200 to $400 for only eight tablets. In the United States in previous years, misoprostol was accessible for around $15 for 60 pills. While reporting on these issues in Brazil, a New York Times reporter was able to find a dealer for this drug in under one minute in a known drug dealing neighborhood.
Heading into a post-Roe America, abortion rights will inevitably be managed in different ways. Americans can trigger an abortion using hormone pills in the privacy of their home, which the Food and Drug Administration approved.
Since the overruling of Roe vs. Wade that occurred on Friday by the Supreme Court, laws have begun to take effect banning all abortion, including medication abortion. To receive pills now, women must travel to states where it is allowed for a consultation, as required by the FDA. The implementation of travel creates an issue with lower-income families who do not have accessibility to afford a trip, which may cause future harm to their life if the pregnancy is not stable.
For those unable to travel, the use of black-market pills will be increasing. Women who currently attain these pills have zero guarantees of safety, effectiveness, or complications. If complications do arise, as the drugs are illegal, seeking help would contribute to the risk of jail time.
“You buy it from a dealer, you don’t know what it is, the whole process is made frightening, it’s secret, it’s not a medicine any more,” said Maira Marques, who is the manager of campaigns for an abortion access advocacy organization called Milhas pelas Vidas das Mulheres. “This is supposed to be the straightforward, less complicated way to have an abortion but now instead it’s buying contraband.”
While the medication was legal in the US, the number of women appearing in hospitals with life-threatening post-abortion infections or hemorrhages was significantly decreased. With the drug being illegal in Brazil, the number of self-induced abortions is considerably higher than in the US, including but not limited to bleach, castor root, and coat hangers. With US laws changing, the fear lies in the numbers beginning to rise of harmful self-induced abortions.
Police have set traps for women in Brazil by luring them into believing they are buying the product, but the other end of the screen includes law enforcement. Women have been sentenced to prison time for this matter.
The question swirling the internet leads to the curiosity of if the United States will end up having similar issues with drug trafficking, as well as felony charges for abortions.
At the moment, nearly half the states are planning on cutting back on abortion rights, with more restrictions likely to follow in the coming months, specifically around election time.
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