Activists’ Network in Mexico: How You Can Help U.S. Women Get the Abortions They Need

by Joshua Brown
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Marcela Castro lives in Chihuahua, Mexico which is far away from the U.S.- Mexico border – but that hasn’t stopped her from helping women in America who have recently been blocked from getting abortions.

Marea Verde Chihuahua is an organization that helps people who want to end their pregnancy by giving them advice online, as well as sending out abortion pills. This organization has been running since 2018 in northern Mexico.

Last year, lots of people in the US wanted to know about an abortion model that didn’t require anyone to travel or go to a clinic. This model had been created by Mexican activists who were dealing with the fact that abortions were banned or restricted in most of their states.

“We cannot help you with medical things since we are not doctors,” Castro said. “But, part of our job is to make people less embarrassed about getting an abortion. This procedure does not need special hospital care.”

Castro and her colleagues have been trained to help women receive medical abortions safely. They earned a title known as “acompañantes” which means they can serve as partners either in person or from a distance. The team studied national abortion guidelines and also memorized protocols established by the World Health Organization.

Most “acompañantes” (helpers) need to get jobs outside of where they volunteer. These helpers are often made up of lawyers, psychologists, and other types of professionals. Over the years, they have created a social circle that can help Mexican and foreign women get abortions, even in places where it is not legal.

The people involved with this organization want everyone to have access to reproductive justice (the ability to make decisions about their own bodies). They do everything possible just to make sure that women’s rights are respected despite the law’s prohibitions.

In Mexico, abortion has been made illegal in many of its states, just like it is here in the U.S. In Chihuahua, where Castro lives, their laws also do not allow abortions unless there are special situations. This means that if someone in Chihuahua has an abortion, they can be punished according to their penal code.

In Mexican states connected with the US, abortion is only legal in Baja California. In 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court said people who have abortions can’t get punished in Coahuila a state that borders Texas.

More than 30 women work together with Castro in Marea Verde Chihuahua. This is part of her plan to create a special network between Mexico and the US that makes it easier for people living in the US to access self-managed abortions.

Most of the women living in the US who search out Marea Verde Chihuahua learn about it through social media or referrals. Additionally, most of them communicate in Spanish, although those assisting can help English speakers too.

After initial contact, the team checks everyone’s availability and assigns someone called a “acompañante” to each case. You can usually talk with them via WhatsApp.

The “acompañante” then asks some questions to get an idea of how far along the pregnancy is, how it was confirmed, and how healthy the woman is overall. After getting this information, the “acompañante” will suggest how to move forward.

In many cases, doctors give medication to do the abortion. This medicine is a combination of two pills called ‘misoprostol and mifepristone’. These pills are considered safe by organizations like the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the U.S., both medications need a prescription before they can be used but misoprostol can also be bought from Mexican pharmacies without one. However, some vendors do not give this medication to women. Mifepristone can also be obtained from certain organizations that support abortion rights.

The work of “acompañantes” causes concern among people who oppose abortion in Mexico. Jahel Torres, a member of the national group Pasos por la Vida, believes that giving out abortion medications by non-medical personnel is unsafe. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) insists that self-managed abortions are safe.

The people who work at abortion clinics in Mexico, like Castro and her team, typically send the pills to get an abortion by post and keep in touch with patients online until it’s done. But different abortion clinics have slightly different plans for how this process works.

Aborto Seguro Chihuahua, which is part of a group that helps people in two countries, offers guidance to women living in the US who need help. But the medication they use isn’t sent directly from Mexico. Volunteers pick up the pills from Ciudad Juárez, located in Chihuahua and deliver them to El Paso, Texas where they are either given or mailed to people who need it.

Laura Dorado works with twenty other people at Aborto Seguro Chihuahua and they receive around 120 abortion requests every month. These requests come from different places like Mexico, Texas, Arizona, or Colorado.

When she gets a request from someone who is able to travel from the U.S. to Mexico, Laura gives advice on how to acquire the necessary pills. She suggests finding pharmacies where getting the pills isn’t difficult or booking a hotel and having the medication delivered there in order to keep it discreet.

Ms. Dorado told us that Aborto Seguro Chihuahua obtains medication from Las Libres, which was created 20 years ago in the very conservative state Guanajuato of Mexico where abortions remain illegal. Lead by Veronica Cruz, Las Libres is known for educating and training people to assist with self-managed medical abortions not only in Mexico but also in the U.S since 2019.

In January 2022, Cruz and her team of 10 people were handling around 10 cases a day. However, when Roe was overturned in June, the work increased drastically to a hundred cases every day. The number kept on increasing until it got to 300 requests per day – all from the US. Because of all this work, Cruz created more networks with more than 200 people helping out only in America.

Las Libres often gets requests for help from people in states like Texas, Arizona, and Colorado. Once in a while, someone from Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Georgia, California, New Jersey and New York also contacts them. Although abortion is legal in some of these states, many of the women these helpers are contacted by are thought to be Hispanic because they either do not want to go to an abortion clinic or cannot afford up to $600 for an abortion there.

Cruz explained that many women are hesitant to use medicine for self-managed abortions. It has been difficult to get people to believe that this can be a safe way to achieve an abortion. John Seago from Texas Right to Life said that there hasn’t yet been any real attempt to punish those who give abortion pills to people in Texas.

John Seago from an organization said that Texas lacks the proper tools to stop people from helping with abortions either physically or digitally. He wants new laws formed so that anyone going against the law in this manner will get punished. Nathan Cortez, who is a professor at Southern Methodist University, believes that women in states with abortion bans may look for help outside of America.

“This means that if your state has very strict laws, people are more likely to go elsewhere,” Cortez said. The Conversation US and Lilly Endowment Inc funded the Associated Press’s religion coverage and the AP is in full control of this content.

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