HomeWorldA Mexican network is smuggling abortion drugs to American women

A Mexican network is smuggling abortion drugs to American women

Since the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the network has moved an average of 100 doses across the border each day, organizers say.

“Medications are getting into the hands of women in a thousand ways, in creative ways,” said Veronica Cruz Sanchez, a prominent Mexican anti-abortion activist whose group, Las Libres, helps run the network.

Abortions in Texas, including the provision of medical abortions, the most widely used abortion method in the country, have been effectively banned following the June high court ruling.

Last week, Whole Woman’s Health, the largest independent abortion provider in Texas and the operator of the last clinic in the state’s sprawling Rio Grande Valley border region, announced it would close its facilities in the state with plans to reopen in neighboring New Mexico.

Although traveling to other states for an abortion is an option, it is not a simple one. Women undergoing multi-day medical abortion treatment are often told to stay in the state where they started the process, making those trips prohibitively expensive for some.

Thus, the audacious and illegal operation of the Mexican network has become one of the few avenues for women seeking abortions in South Texas and beyond, building on an activist-led model of abortion access that has already exists in Mexico.

Sandra Cardona, whose group I Need to Abort Mexico is part of the Mexican abortion network, says her group alone received more than 70 requests for help from women in the US in the week after the Supreme Court ruling.

“What we did was start giving them options,” he said.

The ‘accompaniment’ model

The administration of misoprostol and mifepristone, the drugs approved to be used together in medical abortion, has long been a means of accessing abortion for women living in parts of Mexico where the procedure is inaccessible.

Under the “accompaniment,” or accompaniment model, community health workers, often linked to reproductive rights groups, support women during medical abortion treatment with medical information and guidance, either virtually or in person , and, in some cases, also provide the necessary care. tablets

The model is common throughout the world, especially in places where access to abortion is restricted.

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In a set of guidelines published in March, the World Health Organization outlined best practices for the use of accompaniment and other abortion service delivery networks globally, saying self-managed abortions “should be recognized as an active outreach and potentially empowering of the health system”. .”

In Mexico, following a 2021 Supreme Court ruling that said state laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional, pills can be legally shipped from state to state for a woman to take home.

If the woman prefers to receive treatment under the supervision of a trained professional, Cardona, of Necessary Abortion, will receive her at home.

La Abortería in Monterrey, where women from Mexico and the United States can undergo medical abortion treatments.

Earlier this year, Cardona converted the second floor of her property in the northern city of Monterrey into La Abortería, a set of cosily decorated rooms where women from Mexico and the US can receive medical abortion treatments.

Last week, two Texas women received medical abortions at the center, Cardona said.

Abortion rules tighten in the US

Americans’ access to abortion is expected to be restricted in a total of at least 26 states as more planned state laws take effect in the coming weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization.

Many state laws do not appear to distinguish between medication and surgical abortion, and legislation already on the books in several states prohibits telehealth for abortion medication prescriptions, complicating out-of-state delivery services.

People who request and receive medication to induce abortion, even in a state where the treatment is prohibited, generally face a low level of legal risk, said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director of If/When/How. : Lawyering For Reproductive Justice, a US-based group that, in addition to other services, operates a legal hotline.

While the state bans that are beginning to take effect are generally not designed to prosecute anyone who has an abortion, Diaz-Tello says the “increased stigma and heightened scrutiny” surrounding abortion could present problems for anyone. that, for example, seek medical attention. after a self-managed abortion.

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In reality, the biggest impact of the new medical abortion laws will be to block their access to women in ban states and increase legal risk for people who help facilitate their outlaw births.

In the days since the Supreme Court ruling, the Biden administration has vowed to uphold and expand access to medical abortion, as anti-abortion advocates have signaled they will push more states to make it harder to get the pills.

The National Committee for the Right to Life, the largest anti-abortion group in the US, also suggested that states should extend criminal penalties to people who help a woman have an illegal abortion, including ” trafficking” of drugs that induce abortion and even give instructions about themselves. – controlled abortions.

In Texas, a 2021 law already bans the shipment of abortion drugs and threatens jail for anyone who provides the pills who isn’t a doctor.

“Women should not have to go through being in the limits of legality”

Ipas, a global reproductive rights organization, has been conducting an analysis of cross-border escort networks and corresponding laws in the US and Mexico since the spring. While women in the US have the right in the US and Mexico to travel to Mexico and complete abortion care there, and medical tourism is routine in many border communities, it can be illegal to bring foreign medications to the United States.

A lawyer for the group said Ipas has begun preparing to defend itself against any reports to Mexican police about the organizations’ conduct in that country, and is consulting with US-based nonprofits to find safe ways. and legal to deliver the medication. there.

“Women should not have to go through the limits of legality and be afraid of being prosecuted to have access to an essential health service,” said María Antonieta Alcalde, director for Central America and Mexico at Ipas. “But I also think this speaks to the solidarity and commitment of women and the feminist movement.”

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