In the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, the phones and social media accounts of abortion rights activists in Mexico have been inundated with desperate requests for abortion pills from people in the U.S.
“On average we were getting about 10 calls a day, and it’s shot up to 100,” said Verónica Cruz, founder of the activist group Las Libres in Guanajuato, Mexico, speaking about the surge in abortion pill requests.
“It used to be concentrated in Texas, Oklahoma and Miami, Florida,” she added. “Now they’re coming from everywhere.”
For nearly two decades, Ms. 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 never imagined she would be aiding women north of the border, too.
Las Libres, which receives the medication from pharmaceutical companies based in Mexico 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 medication to other women in need.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends mifepristone and misoprostol to induce an abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. In 2021, it approved mail delivery of the drugs from certified providers.
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 mailing of abortion pills, effectively pitting state law against federal protections. The new restrictions are currently in place in Arizona, Arkansas and Texas and are expected to take effect in Louisiana in August.
In 2021, Republican lawmakers in Texas made dispensing abortion pills by someone who’s not a physician or otherwise “enabling another person to induce an abortion” a criminal offense punishable by jail time.
“The people in this network are doing this work at great legal risk,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director at the group If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, which runs a hotline for women seeking legal abortions.
“They can be arrested and charged, even with a felony under S.B. 4,” she added, referring to the Texas law. “You could envision a very motivated prosecutor charging them with homicide.”
Some state laws, like S.B. 4 in Texas, state that they are aimed at stopping 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 interrogated and charged for suspected drug-induced abortions.
For now, Ms. Cruz says Las Libres will continue answering the calls of women in need.
“What concerns me now with women in the U.S. is that fear will stop them from looking for other options,” she said.