MSNBC's Carmon Laments Texas Raid Ending Sale of Prescription Contraception at Flea Market

You might think an abortion-rights absolutist, a "champion of choice," like MSNBC.com contributor Irin Carmon would be revulsed at the notion of women potentially procuring prescription-strength abortion pills at a flea market. You'd be wrong.

Reporting from Alamo, Texas, the Lean Forward network's fearless feticide crusader groused that (emphasis mine):


There is no more birth control at the flea market. And if there ever were abortion pills, they’re long gone, too.

At the Rio Grande Valley’s biggest outdoor market, known as la pulga, locals can buy car parts and fertilizer, watermelons out of a pickup, a parakeet, an iPhone case or stickers from their favorite Mexican fútbol team. But since this flea market was among several raided last August over suspicion it was selling abortion pills, if you even ask for birth control you’ll hear voices lower to a fearful whisper. You’ll be sent to the vendor who sells nuts, or the women selling jewelry.

On a recent afternoon, all those destinations were a dead end.

“Not anymore,” a woman whose table bore aspirin and homeopathic remedies said in Spanish. She shrugged. “Obama wants us to have more babies.”

But just wait a minute there, señora, it's not the Obama administration's doing. Nope, this raid was purely a local affair, coordinated by the Democratic county sheriff, although, of course, Carmon failed to note the sheriff's party affiliation:

In fact, it wasn’t the federal government that raided four flea markets’ thriving illegal pharmaceutical trade, making undocumented residents that much more terrified to shop in them. The Sheriff of Hidalgo County, who took the lead, didn’t find any abortion pills, but he did charge nine people with selling prescription-drug contraband like diet pills and Viagra from Mexico. (The border is just minutes away.)
It had been a month-long investigation, Sheriff Lupe Treviño told local press.

The arrests came a month to the day after a front page New York Times story about how the state’s new omnibus law restricting abortion – the one Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis famously tried to block – was expected to close the Rio Grande Valley’s two abortion clinics. Locals told the paper that with the nearest clinic now 250 miles away, more women would terminate their pregnancies on their own by taking black-market abortion drugs. Such pills, known as misoprostol, are readily available over the counter in Mexican pharmacies. But a trip across the border would cost the undocumented much more.

“The only option left for many women will be to go get those pills at a flea market,” local organizer Lucy Felix had warned.

For many reasons, women had already reportedly been buying pills at flea markets to end their pregnancies – because it was cheaper than going to a clinic, because they feared immigration authorities, or perhaps because they assumed abortion in the U.S. was illegal, as it is in Mexico. They also went to the flea markets for contraception, like birth control pills or injectable Depo-Provera. 

You knew that's where this was going. It's all the fault of guys like Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the man looking to succeed him in this November's gubernatorial election, Attorney General Greg Abbott (R). Carmon continued:

As expected, the two local abortion clinics were shuttered in March under the new law – clinics that together performed 2,634 abortions in 2011. And the flea market raids had done their job. There are no abortion pills there, and no hormonal contraception.

The combined crackdown by state and local authorities in Texas has done more than make it harder for the women of the Valley to get an abortion. They’re now having trouble getting any reproductive health care at all, since the same state legislature that shuttered the abortion clinics also slashed family planning funds and closed family planning providers. And Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid means its distinction as the uninsured capital of the United States isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, making the state’s broader health care crisis even worse.

At la pulga, a woman whose stall had just barely survived the raid had one more idea for obtaining abortion pills.

“Go to Mexico,” she said. “Go to Mexico – or stay pregnant.” 

And there we go, for good measure, with a tie-in to another policy issue near and dear to the Left, amnesty for illegal immigrants:

[F]or the undocumented living illegally in the U.S., accessing health care on the Mexico side means either making the treacherous crossing back or, more likely, encargar a alguien – paying someone with papers to visit the pharmacy. That takes money too, and people are nervous.

Few expect things in Texas to get better any time soon. Planned Parenthood took the state to court over the loss of its family planning funds, a case that’s still pending, and Whole Women’s Health abortion clinic is challenging the admitting privileges requirement. But both depend on the conservative Fifth Circuit – or perhaps the Supreme Court – to eventually step in. 

Ugh! Those darn conservatives in the federal circuit court. They won't, you know, stand up for a woman's right to get an abortion at a below-par, underregulated abortion clinic. The nerve those female jurists have

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters