Letters to the Editor
June 2017

The latest issue of the magazine makes reference to the Hyde Amendment, including this quote: “I don’t care if women have abortions, I just don’t want my tax dollars paying for it.” I have never understood this argument. The practical effect of this policy is to bring unwanted children into this world and likely end up supporting them with public funds for the next 18 years. This makes no economic sense; clearly the cost of an abortion is far less than 18 years worth of welfare payments.

Tom Hawkins
Fort Bragg, California (corrected)

I was glad to see that you mentioned the situation here in Venezuela in your March issue (referencing PLAFAM, the IPPF–WHR organization in Caracas that we have worked with for years).

Although surgical sterilization at the official government currency exchange rate is quite expensive, as you say ($1,500), the black market currency rate for the dollar (which is the de facto rate) brings it down to around $400 at our local clinics here in Cumaná. Still, this is an amount in the local currency that almost no one can afford to pay. The Turimiquire Foundation offers sterilization for the equivalent of about $20 to urban populations, and often for less to struggling rural families. We currently do monthly 30-patient “laparoscopic sterilization days” at local clinics here. We have operated on over 600 women a year for the last few years, but in 2017 our limited funding will cut us back to about 400 procedures. The unmet need is enormous.

In addition, we are the only institution in eastern Venezuela with any significant hormonal contraceptives at all—there are almost no contraceptives of any kind available anywhere locally. We currently supply about 1,500 rural and urban women per month, though we will run out before the end of this year if we are not able to renew our stocks. We work closely with pharmacies and drug wholesalers, but there are almost no contraceptives stocked. We ran out of IUDs and implants early this year with no prospect for replenishing our stocks, nor adequate funding to restock at the current highly inflated pricing. The black market, as you mention, is horrendous.

Soaring unintended pregnancy, especially among adolescents, is just one notable facet of the current Venezuela economic and public health crisis, but it is one with grim long-term consequences. I was very glad to see that you publicized this enormous setback here.

Steven Bloomstein
Turimiquire Foundation
Cumaná, Venezuela

I just read the article on DIY abortion in your March issue. It really does make me mad that while abortion is legal here, it can be unattainable due to the high cost. I am a senior now, and never even considered that as a loyal pro-choice activist.

Roberta Berlin
New Brunswick, New Jersey

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