Mexican activists respond to US demands for abortion pills

In the weeks since the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, the phones and social media accounts of abortion rights activists in Mexico have been inundated with desperate pleas for abortion pills from people in the United States.

“On average, we were getting about 10 calls a day, and the number went up to 100,” Verónica Cruz, founder of the activist group Las Libres in Guanajuato, Mexico, said of the surge in requests for abortion pills.

“It was previously concentrated in Texas, Oklahoma and Miami, Florida,” she added. “Now they come from everywhere.”

For nearly two decades, Cruz has provided the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol to women in Mexico, where rates of rape and domestic violence are among the highest in the world. She would never have imagined that she would also help women north of the border.

Las Libres, which receives the drugs from Mexico-based pharmaceutical companies and private donors, has built a cross-border network of more than 100 volunteers to hand-deliver abortion pills to women in need in the United States. The network often relies on women passing on leftover medicine to other women in need.

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The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends mifepristone and misoprostol for inducing abortion up to 10 weeks gestation. In 2021, it approved mail delivery of drugs from certified vendors.

But, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that tracks abortion policy, at least seven states (Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas) have banned the shipment of abortion pills, opposing thus state law to federal law. protections. The new restrictions are in place in Arizona, Arkansas and Texas and are expected to take effect in Louisiana in August.

In 2021, Republican lawmakers in Texas made the distribution of abortion pills by someone who is not a doctor or “allowing another person to cause an abortion” a criminal offense punishable by jail time.

“Members of this network are doing this work at great legal risk,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior attorney and legal director of the group If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, which runs a hotline for women who ask legal abortions. .

“They can be arrested and charged with even a felony under SB 4,” she added, referring to Texas law. “You could imagine a highly motivated prosecutor charging them with homicide.”

Some state laws, such as Texas Senate Bill 4, state that they are intended to stop the distribution of abortion pills and that women who take the pills are not criminally liable. But abortion rights advocates say they are skeptical, citing recent examples of women who have been questioned and accused of drug-induced abortions.

For now, Cruz says Las Libres will continue to respond to calls from women in need.

“What worries me now with women in the United States is that fear will keep them from looking for other options,” she said.

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