Soft toys, filled with abortion pills, which cross the border between Mexico and the United States. Apartments, in New York or San Francisco, serving as depots. Houses welcoming, on the Mexican side, American women who wish to terminate their pregnancy. So many means deployed by feminist collectives, which are mobilizing in cross-border networks, to counter the recent cancellation by the Supreme Court of the United States of the constitutional right to abortion.
“The requests are exploding,” says Vanessa Rubalcava, a member of the organization Necesito Abortar (“I need an abortion”), based in Monterrey, northern Mexico. We receive more than 100 requests per week from the United States, compared to a handful before June 24. That day, the highest American court put an end to the right to abortion at the federal level, guaranteed for half a century, returning to the States the task of legislating. Since then, abortion is in the process of being abolished or restricted in nearly half of the country. “On June 24, we received more than 70 requests from desperate women,” recalls the 40-year-old graphic designer who manages the NGO, created in 2016. Most of its 17 members live in Monterrey (state of Nuevo Leon). , an industrial town located less than a three-hour drive from Laredo and McAllen, Texas. The American state was one of the first to ban, on June 24, abortion from the conception of the fetus.
“Women contact us through messaging or social media for medical abortions,” Rubalcava explains. The service is free. Anonymity guaranteed. Most exchanges remain virtual. The kits are delivered to your home. The logistics seem well established: members of the collective, who have an American visa, pass in the United States tablets of Misoprostol and Mifepristone, with abortifacient properties. These drugs are sold freely in Mexican pharmacies while they require a prescription in the United States.
Once across the border, the pills are received in Texas and then stored elsewhere in the United States. “We are building ‘banks’ of pills in voluntary individuals. The stamps are then sent (usually) by courier across the country. They are also delivered by hand in parks or cafes. The support then takes place remotely through messaging or video calls. “It’s simple and safe: take twelve pills, four every three hours. » Misoprostol and Mifepristone are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
For more personalized follow-ups, Ms. Rubalcava has set up a room on the roof of her house. “A safe place for those who can afford to come here.” ” Sofa bed, toilet area, cozy decor … this room, called “the Aborteria” (“the Abortion”), has welcomed seven pregnant women since May. “One of them, 27, was due to have an abortion at a US clinic which canceled her appointment following the court ruling. She could have gone to California, where abortion is still legal. But Mexico is closer to home. »
However, such dedicated shelters remain rare near the US border. For Marcela Castro, head of the Marea Verde collective (“green tide”, the color of abortion advocates), “the solution begins with sending pills to homes”. Created five years earlier, his informal organization has around fifty members in the state of Chihuahua, bordering the conservative state of Texas, where a local law had already prohibited, since September 1, 2021, abortions after six weeks, encouraging to denounce people who help women to have an abortion.
Ms. Castro laments that “this law, like others elsewhere, threatens our volunteers with a fine of up to 9,000 dollars [8,600 euros]”. She confides that the pills are hidden, to cross the border, in toys or boxes of vitamins, even sewn into the linings of jackets. “It’s crazy to have to play drug dealer when these drugs are legal. Not to mention the risk of extremist violence from anti-abortion activists against our volunteers there. »
” It’s the world upside down ! »
A clandestine resistance well known to the Mexican Veronica Cruz, head of the collective Los Libres (“The Free”), created twenty-two years earlier in the very conservative state of Guanajuato (west), 1,500 kilometers from the US border. In his country, abortion has long been punished, sometimes with heavy prison sentences. In September 2021, the Mexican Supreme Court declared the offense of abortion unconstitutional, which de facto authorizes abortion throughout the territory. But for now, only nine of the 32 Mexican states have taken the extra step of legalization, that is to say guarantee its practice in health centers. A pioneer in Latin America in 2007, Mexico City was for a long time the only administrative entity to provide free care regardless of where patients live. Twenty-three other local Congresses have yet to reform their penal codes. Many are waiting in a country that has remained very Catholic.
“It’s the world upside down!” says Ms. Cruz. We believed that our American neighbor was more liberal than us. Many Mexicans even had abortions there. Clinics are now closing in the United States. ” The alternative ? “The networking of Mexican and American organizations,” replies this fifty-something who estimates the number of collectives in Mexico at around a hundred. We divide up the tasks. Some groups, formal or informal, take care of collecting donations, others take care of logistics, still others of the training of our members… As for our American relays, we pass on our long experience to them so that they organize themselves. »
In the state of Yucatan, in southeastern Mexico, Amélia Ojeda, from the Unasse collective (Psychological, Sexual and Educational Attention Unit), is working on communication campaigns: “We must break the myth that an abortion must performed in a clinic with very expensive medical assistance. To allay the fears aroused by medical abortion, the relays of Unasse distribute leaflets in the United States. And Ms. Cruz added: “We want to put an end to legal but also social criminalization. Beyond the legal struggle, women must realize that their freedom of decision goes beyond the restrictions imposed by a State. Medical abortion, self-managed and accompanied, makes it possible to thwart these retrograde laws. »