More American women turn to Mexico for medical abortions after Roe reversal

A growing number of American women who cannot access abortion services in their states are turning to Mexico after the fall of Roe v. Wade, according to Mexican abortion rights activists.

Activists say hundreds have flooded abortion rights organizations across the border with phone calls and social media requests demanding access to abortion medication and help in the process.

“We imagined it would happen, but not at the rate it is happening,” said Sandra Cardona, founder of Red Necesito Abortar, Spanish for “I Need to Abort Network,” an abortion rights group at Monterrey, Mexico.

Sandra Cardona, founder of Red Necesito Abortar.Courtesy of Sandra Cardona

Prior to Roe’s cancellation, it was previously more common for Mexican women who could afford to cross the border to seek abortion services in the United States. But after Mexico decriminalized abortion in September 2021 and with recent abortion restrictions in some US states, Mexican activist networks say they have seen an increase in calls from desperate American women.

“When the decision came down, it was like a loudspeaker,” Cardona said. She said that previously five to seven American women came to her clinic for help a week, but now that number has risen to 70 to 100 a week.

“You have to see the fear that this has generated in the population,” she said.

“They never say they want an abortion,” Cardona said of the women calling. Instead, she says, they say how many weeks they are and ask, “Will there be a problem?”

The four Mexican abortion rights groups interviewed said that while the majority of calls came from Texas, they were seeing increasing numbers of women reaching out to other states as well, including Oklahoma, Ohio, Florida and as far away as Idaho and Wisconsin.

Verónica Cruz, the founder of Las Libres, Spanish for “The Free Ones,” an abortion rights network that has worked in Mexico for 22 years, said that prior to the Roe ruling, about 10 American women contacted his group daily, but since then it’s been 100 a day.

She said that over the past few months her network has seen women who say they have been denied abortions even after being raped and in cases where their lives were in danger or their pregnancies had serious abnormalities. fetal.

“It’s just brutal,” she said.

Veronica Cruz, director of Las Libres or The Free, an abortion advocacy group, speaks during a meeting of Mexican and American activists, in Matamoros, Mexico January 21, 2022.
Veronica Cruz, director of Las Libres or The Free, an abortion advocacy group, speaks during a meeting of Mexican and American activists, in Matamoros, Mexico January 21, 2022.Maria Verza / AP file

Even abortion networks farther from the US border are receiving more requests, indicating the distance some women are willing to travel to seek treatment.

Aborto Seguro Chihuahua, Spanish for “Safe Abortion Chihuahua,” only received two or three calls from people in the United States a month for information or help, said co-founder Laura Dorado. That number has grown to about 20 per month, even though the city of Chihuahua is not along the US border, she said.

“Women who want to have an abortion will have an abortion, they will find a new path,” she said. “We are here to hold their hand and accompany them.

“Show our solidarity”

Networks in Mexico primarily connect women with access to abortion medication, not procedures, and guide them through the process or provide a safe and comfortable space for them to go through the process. Abortion medications can be found without a prescription in Mexican pharmacies.

Crystal Pérez Lira, founder of the Bloodys network in Tijuana, said the groups are there to help people in “whatever situation or question they have.”

Some of the women may travel to Mexico to get the drugs and then return home to the United States, the activists said. Others are accompanied to Mexico by the activists. For women in the United States who cannot cross the border, some abortion rights networks send donations of drugs through the mail or work to deliver them directly to women for free, according to the groups.

Dorado said women in the United States have also asked if the network can offer workshops to educate others about medical abortion.

Since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, the combination drug mifepristone and misoprostol has been a safe and effective option for women in the United States wishing to have an abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. In 2020, medical abortion was used in more than half of abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, a hormone needed for pregnancy growth. Misoprostol causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus.

Although the two-pill method has been approved in the United States, the World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both note that using a misoprostol-only method can also be used as alternative if a patient cannot access both drugs.

In December, the FDA said it would permanently allow patients to receive abortion pills by mail and the prescription through an online consultation.

Opponents of abortion rights in several states have called for increased restrictions on medical abortion.

Many states require doctors to administer medication for abortion. And 19 states require the clinician providing the drug to be physically present during its administration, thus prohibiting the use of telemedicine, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Cruz de Las Libres said the groups guide women through the WHO protocol for using abortion drugs to safely terminate pregnancies at home.

She said she hoped the networks could share their years of experience advocating in a country with strict abortion restrictions with women in the United States.

“The only thing we’re doing is showing our solidarity with the women who need it,” Cruz said. “Women have always had abortions, they will always have abortions and abortions will always be necessary. All legal restrictions only put people at risk.

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