An Interview with a Texas Abortion Doctor Who Can No Longer Do His Job

What Women Really Think
Nov. 20 2013 9:55 AM

An Interview With a Texas Abortion Doctor Who Can No Longer Do His Job

2758579
Some doctors in Texas may no longer be able to perform abortions, but women are still trying to get them.

Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block a new law in Texas that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, a measure that has caused at least a dozen clinics in the state to stop terminating pregnancies. Dr. Lester Minto owns and operates one of the affected clinics, Harlingen Reproductive Services. I spoke with him last week as he awaited the Supreme Court’s vote.  

Slate: Are you closed? 


Advertisement

Lester Minto: Of course not. I have nine ladies scheduled for tomorrow.

Slate: What do you tell them? 


Minto: That I do not do abortions. I cannot do them legally. And I tell them that I know that there are other things that people do.

Slate: What do other people “do?”


Minto: If they have a passport and enough money, they go over the border to Mexico and go to a pharmacy and buy misoprostol at a pharmacy. It is an ulcer drug, but it works as an abortifacient. It is not as effective mifepristone, which is the on-label medicine used in the U.S. But in these ladies’ situations, misoprostol can be a good choice. It is proper medicine in a blister pack from a proper pharmacy. Someone might even know how to dose it. But it can be an expensive choice. In the U.S., misoprostol costs 10 to 12 cents a pill. I have had ladies charged $80 a pill at Mexican pharmacies. Also passports are expensive and can take too long to get if you don’t have one already. Misoprostol only works up to about seven weeks after your last menstrual period. You need a passport now just to walk over the bridge into Mexico and back. Of course if you are undocumented this isn’t an option at all.

Slate: What do women do if they don’t have a passport? 


Minto: They buy the drug at a flea market. This is bad and sad and wrong. They are going to be buying things on the street. You don’t even know if you are getting the real thing. But these goddamn politicians ... Women are forced to crawl around like goddamn criminals. So I am here to help them.

Slate: How do you help them? 


Minto: I give them a sonogram to make sure they are pregnant—and if they are pregnant, to make sure it is a uterine pregnancy—that they have no ectopic issues or anything. Then I give them vitamins. Because if they decide to keep the pregnancy, you want it be a healthy one. If they decide to do “something,” you don’t want them to hemorrhage excessively. That is a risk if a lady is anemic. A lot of my patients don’t have great health care, so a lot are anemic.

Slate: So the women take the drug and ...

Minto: They stay close to home, and sometimes it all works fine. But if it doesn’t—or it works part-way, that is what often happens— they can come to me, and I can do “miscarriage management.”

Slate: That’s legal in Texas?

Minto: Yes, in Texas once a woman is vaginally hemorrhaging, it is legal for me to help her.

Slate: What does that involve? 


Minto: The same thing as an abortion. It’s just a change in words. It’s double talk. It’s bullshit.

Slate: Why don’t you just get admitting privileges at a local hospital and comply with the new law?

Minto: They won’t have me. They are religiously affiliated. So you know, Jesus.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:58 AM Does this Colorado Poll Show Latino Voters Bailing on the 2014 Election?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Food
Sept. 18 2014 9:34 AM How to Order Chinese Food First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 18 2014 8:53 AM The Other Huxtable Effect Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?