Latinas Turning to Illegal Prescription Drugs to Induce Abortions

Two new studies recently released by reproductive health providers and reported by the New York Times have highlighted the growing trend in Latino communities of young women using over the counter prescription medicine to induce abortions. From communities that ostracize women who have sought out abortions to fear of the religious repercussions of their decision, the reasons that women seek out this alternative to sound medical advice are numerous.

When she was just 18 years old, Amalia Dominguez found herself in a desperate situation. Feeling as though she had no other option, she ran into a local, family-run pharmacy in her Washington Heights, New York City neighborhood and said, "I need to bring down my period" in Spanish. The pharmacist understood exactly what she meant and handed her a packet of $12 pills for $30. Amalia told the New York Times that she washed them down with some Malta and waited for the effects to kick in. 8 hours later she miscarried and flushed the dead fetus down the toilet.

In retrospect, Amalia said that she had no insurance or money to pay for an abortion and would have never considered going to a local clinic for fear that her mother would find out. She also mentions the fact that her traditionally Dominican community shuns both abortion and birth control, leaving the young women in a catch-22.

Sold under the name Cytotec, mispropostol is approved to induce abortion when used in conjunction with mifepristone or RU-486, the controversial over the counter abortion pill now legal in many states. However, there has not been widespread education regarding this option and many women just don't know about it.The warning on the label states clearly that the drug "can cause abortion", but it is not fool proof. Due to the fact that many women are buying the pills illegally, they also don't know the correct ways of using the medicine.

“We do worry because we don’t know where women are getting the
instructions from,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas of the National Latina
Institute for Reproductive Health, “We imagine that there is misinformation on how to take it, which is why it could be hit or miss.” Side effects can be serious and even fatal at times, and include rupture of the uterus, severe bleeding and shock.

Dr. Mark Rosing, an OBGYN at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx also notes that it may give women an option to claim a natural miscarriage if their partners have forbidden abortion, "“It turns an abortion into a natural process and makes it look like a miscarriage. For people who don’t have access to abortion for social reasons, financial reasons or immigration reasons, it doesn’t seem like this horrible thing.”

Read the full New York Times story here.