Parents in Washington Heights are worried that an over-the-counter, abortion-inducing tea sold throughout the neighborhood might be unsafe, according to the Spanish-language daily.
The tea, called ruda, can be found at traditional apothecaries run by santeras — Caribbean Santeria priestesses.
Ruda has long been used throughout the Caribbean and in Caribbean immigrant communities throughout the world.
But the recent arrest of 20-year-old Washington Heights resident Yaribely Almonte — who police say consumed the tea and left her stillborn fetus in an alley — has prompted outcry, El Diario reports. The charges have since been dismissed.
Many Washington Heights residents interviewed by the paper confirm that ruda has been commonplace in Upper Manhattan for generations. The publication notes that it’s extremely popular among young women in the predominately Catholic community, who fear family criticism both about unwanted pregnancies and obtaining abortions.
In one apothecary on 181st Street, a $33 packet of ruda includes six tablets as well as a pouch of dried leaves. The woman behind the counter, El Diario reports, gave instructions and did not ask the reporter’s age before doing so.
The indiscriminate use of ruda and similar plants is not considered a problem by area lawmakers: Some do not even know about ruda, the paper notes.
Sales of ruda and similar botanicals are not regulated, though state law prevents stores from selling harmful plants for human consumption. If taken in excess, El Diario says, ruda can cause bleeding, diarrhea, confusion, heart attack, and death.