When she learned that she had become pregnant for the eighth time, “F”, 30, wanted to cry. A housewife financially dependent on her husband, she procrastinated for three weeks but always came back to the same conclusion: “I can’t keep this baby. But there was another problem.
Her state of Texas recently made access to abortion extremely difficult, as have many conservative states. The law forbids virtually any voluntary termination of pregnancy after six weeks before most women know they are pregnant.
On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States dynamited the federal right to abortion, returning to each state the right to prohibit it. And what Texas women have been going through since September 2021 — having to travel to terminate a pregnancy — will become more common, with many southern and central states immediately banning the procedure.
From his hometown of El Paso, “F” travels just 45 minutes to Santa Teresa, New Mexico, where a clinic dedicated to reproductive health opened in 2015 thanks to more progressive laws than in the past. Texas.”A madman with a gun”
But others have to travel much further. “What was most difficult for me was how to get here,” says Ehrece, a 35-year-old engineer who has travelled nearly 1,000 km from Dallas, the last part of which by taxi. “The driver dropped me off at the gas station next door and I walked here, so no one knew where I was going,” she adds.
This woman, who does not yet want children for professional reasons, has good reason to worry. Texas law makes it possible to prosecute any person involved, directly or indirectly, in an abortion. This includes caregivers but also, for example, Uber drivers who drive patients to the clinic.
“They don’t make it easy,” says Emily, a 35-year-old yoga teacher who doesn’t want to be a mother. “You worry about someone attacking you in front of the clinic, or some crazy man with a gun coming inside,” she adds.
The activists who demonstrate in front of the building do not scare Dr. Franz Theard. This 73-year-old obstetrician has been performing abortions since the 1980s when doctors were sometimes injured and even killed because of the abortions they performed. “We are very lucky that New Mexico has very progressive laws,” Dr. Theard told AFP.
He no longer practices surgical abortions but prescribes abortion pills: a first of mifepristone, to block the development of pregnancy then, the next day, misoprostol tablets, to trigger contractions.
In the waiting room, her assistant Rocio Negrete answers many questions from patients. “How many weeks are you? she asks. “We have appointments available, but we can only see you up to 10 weeks.”
Surgical abortions are possible in New Mexico until late in pregnancy, and medical abortions are permitted until about 10 weeks. Rocio Negrete is getting more and more calls from people outside of New Mexico.
But some women, scared or without sufficient financial resources (the procedure costs 700 dollars), cross another border in search of an alternative.
“That does not make any sense”
A half-hour drive south is Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. In several pharmacies, boxes of 28 tablets of misoprostol, presented as a treatment for ulcers, are available for 20 to 50 dollars. Mifepristone is more difficult to find, but AFP managed to find some.
“Women buy it and don’t know how to use it,” regrets a pharmacist from Ciudad Juarez, a box of misoprostol in his hands. “It’s dangerous, it can cause bleeding, so it’s better to consult a doctor,” he adds.
Back in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, all the women we met insisted: it is vital that legal abortions remain possible. “If a woman wants to have an abortion, she will succeed” anyway, believes Ehrece, the 35-year-old engineer.
“There’s going to be a lot of illegal stuff that women can kill themselves with because there’s no one to support them, no place where they can do it safely,” she continues.
“It’s exhausting. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense that today, in 2022, we can’t make our own decisions, freely, about what we want to do.”