Abortion Prohibition and the Black Market

Medical News Today reports:

Several recent studies suggest that U.S. women are increasingly seeking methods for self-induced abortions instead of visiting legal clinics that have become "embattled, increasingly costly and geographically inaccessible," The Nation reports. The article profiles a woman from Brownsville, Texas, to illustrate a common experience among women in the state’s Rio Grande Valley, where women, seeking to avoid social stigma and unable to afford medical care, travel to Mexico for cheap drugs to end their pregnancies. An ongoing Guttmacher Institute study shows that 79% of women who attempt self-induced abortions are from the U.S., with the women spread across 20 states.

As with practically any good or service that consumers want but find to be criminalized or in low supply, the black market will supply demand.

Dan Grossman of Ibis Reproductive Health, who has studied the topic of self-induced abortion, said, "I think our findings suggest that there are still significant barriers to abortion care in the United States," including the "high cost of abortion care — and in most states Medicaid cannot be used to cover abortion care." A bottle of misoprostol in a Mexican pharmacy can cost $87 to $167, while an uninsured woman in Texas can pay $450 to more than $900 for an abortion. According to Guttmacher, 75% of women who have an abortion say they cannot afford a child, and 42% of women who obtain the procedure have incomes below the federal poverty level.

While abortion is legal in the US, the lack of reasonable availability, both financial and actual accessibility leads to a de facto ban as long as the pregnant woman can afford to bypass the ban. Society can make this the case as much as it wants to and people have the right to place a stigma on abortion all they want – it is a first amendment right, after all – however that stigma and the high price attached to abortion procedures and medicine will lead people to a black market to meet their needs.

As with all black market goods and services, quality is going to be an issue. Bootleg CDs and DVDs will likely be lower quality than legitimate copies, recreational drugs will almost always be impure and laced with dangerous chemicals (beyond the intentional), and abortion drugs will never be safe to take even beyond the inherent and acknowledged dangers in the open market versions of the drugs.

This basically places these women in danger and while personal responsibility trumps all (these women choose to go through with these black market solutions), there is still potential for blood to be on the hands of those who propagate the stigma and make abortion access difficult and economically impossible. That’s because prohibition doesn’t work; demand will always be met, one way or another:

Over the past three years, only 50 new cars entered Gaza through its official border crossings with Israel and Egypt, as exceptional foreign donations allowed through the Rafah passage in the south.

All the rest was smuggled in through the hundreds of tunnels under the border with Egypt, through which goods ranging from fuel to cows, sheep, refrigerators, candy and cigarettes make their way daily.

Speaking of prohibition, a new show on HBO will premiere soon called Boardwalk Empire. It’ll probably paint a good picture of what prohibition really means: power taken from the people, both consumer and open market, into the hands of criminals and powerless.

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