Organizers claim that the network has been moving an average of 100 doses each day across the border since Roe v. Wade was repealed by the US Supreme Court.
“The medications are arriving in a thousand ways, in creative ways, into the hands of women,” said Verónica Cruz Sánchez, a prominent Mexican abortion activist whose group, Las Libres, helps run the network.
The June high court ruling effectively bans abortions in Texas, including the distribution medication abortion — the most popular method of aborting a woman – and has also banned the sale of such abortions in Texas.
Whole Woman’s Health, Texas’ largest independent provider of abortion and operator of the Rio Grande Valley’s last clinic, announced last week that it would close its centers in Texas. Plans are to reopen them in New Mexico.
It is possible to travel across the country for an abortion. However, it can be difficult. Many women who have undergone multi-day medication abortion are told to stay in their home state. This makes it prohibitively costly.
The Mexican network’s illegal and daring operation has been a source of hope for women looking to have abortions in Texas and elsewhere. It is based on an activist-led model that was already in Mexico.
Sandra Cardona’s group Necesito Abortar Mexico, which is part of the Mexican abortifacient networks, claims that her group received more than 70 requests from American women for assistance in the week after the Supreme Court ruling.
She said, “What we did was give them options.”
The “accompaniment” model
Women who live in Mexico and are unable to have an abortion performed by a doctor, such as those in the areas where misoprostol or mifepristone can be delivered together.
Under the “acompañimiento,” or accompaniment model, community health workers, often related to reproductive rights groups, support women through the medication abortion treatment with information and medical guidance, either virtually or in person, and, in some cases, also provide the necessary pills.
This model is very common in areas where abortion is not available.
The World Health Organization released guidelines in March that outline best practices for accompaniment and other abortion-service-delivery networks worldwide. It stated that self-managed abortions should be considered as an active extension of the health system and a potential empowering option.
Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that state laws against abortion are unconstitutional in 2021. The pills can now be legally shipped from Mexico to a woman to use at home.
Cardona from Necesito Abortar will accept the woman if she prefers to be treated under the supervision of a trained professional.
Earlier this year, Cardona converted the second floor of her property in the northern city of Monterrey into La Abortería, a cozily decorated set of rooms where women from Mexico and the US can have medication abortion treatments.
Cardona reported that last week, two Texas women had medication abortions at the center.
US abortion laws tightening up
The Guttmacher Institute, an organization that promotes reproductive rights, predicts that Americans will have less access to abortion as more state laws come into effect over the next few weeks.
Many state laws fail to distinguish between surgical and medication abortion. Telehealth for abortion prescriptions is prohibited in many states. This makes it difficult to provide out-ofstate delivery services.
Farah Diaz -Tello is senior counsel and legal director of If/When/How Legal Director for Reproductive Justice. This US-based group, which provides a hotline and other services, stated that people who solicit or receive abortion-inducing medications, even in states where they are banned, face an “indirect” greater risk than those providing the drugs.
Although the state bans that are beginning to take effect don’t generally target those who have an abortion and who face prosecution, Diaz-Tello warns that the “increased stigmatization” and increased scrutiny surrounding abortion could pose problems for anyone seeking medical attention after a self-managed one.
In reality, the greatest impact of the new laws about medicated abortion will be to prevent access for women in states where there is a ban, and to increase legal danger for those who assist with their delivery outside of the law.
The Biden administration has pledged to expand access to medical abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Anti-abortion advocates, however, have indicated that they will push for more states to make it harder to get the pills.
The National Right to Life Committee is the US’s largest anti-abortion organization. It has suggested that states increase criminal penalties for those who aid a woman to have an illegal abortion. This includes “trafficking” drugs to induce abortions and giving instructions on self-managed abortions.
Texas has enacted a law in 2021 that prohibits the mailing of abortion medications and threatens to jail anyone who gives them.
“Women shouldn’t have the burden of living within legal boundaries”
Ipas, a worldwide reproductive rights organization has been analysing the cross-border accompaniment network and the US and Mexican laws since spring. Although women in the US have the right to travel to Mexico for abortion, and medical tourism is common in many border communities of the US, it may be illegal to import foreign drugs into the US.
The group’s lawyer said that Ipas had begun to prepare to defend against Mexican police reports regarding the conduct of the organizations. He is also consulting with US-based non profit organizations to find legal and safe ways to get the medication to Mexico.
“Women shouldn’t have to go through being in the limits of legality and being afraid of being prosecuted to have access to an essential health care service,” said María Antonieta Alcalde, the director for Central America and Mexico at Ipas. “But, I believe this also speaks to the solidarity and commitment women and the feminist movements.”