Women’s Underground Railroad

Bodily Autonomy Elections Mexico United States Women

            New Orleans     Reading the paper, the polls seem to be weakening on whether or not the radicalism of the Supreme Court and some of its supporters in the overturning of Roe v. Wade is nationally a wedge issue or only in some local races.  We’ll know soon enough as the countdown to the mid-term elections in the US gets closer and closer.  My mail ballot is long gone, so I’m chill.

Perhaps more interesting to me is the fact that women aren’t waiting for some new breeze to blow over the Potomac River, but have begun taking matters, literally, in their own hands by building underground, multinational networks to assist women in abortion-banned states to access the tools they need for self-determination.  Undoubtedly, there are some heavy-breathing politicians that are monitoring this growing movement closely, and, judging by recent stories in both the New Yorker and the Washington Post, so is the media.

The shift from the dark alley days before Roe and now, is the pill.  No, not what everyone thinks of when they think about THE PILL, but the pills that allow women, not totally without risk, to self-abort.  Many of these emerging networks are following what our sisters in Mexico practiced before the recent legalization of abortion in that continually Catholic country.  Primary in this emerging system is a network run by a nonprofit called Las Libres – the Free Ones, based in Guanajuato and directed by a tireless advocate, Victoria Cruz, who has evangelized about the process and developed a model of acompanante of women accompanying other women through the process.

Whether north or south, it’s is all hands-on.  The New Yorker story focused on a group of ex-pats referred to as the “old hippies” based in San Miguel del Allende, an old colonial city several hours north of Mexico City, that I have often visited and know relatively well.  I know both older women and men and younger women and men who live there permanently or semi-permanently, and I’d bet money I know a number of people in this network, though it may be years before I can confirm this, since this is absolutely a new underground railroad.  Pills are obtained in Mexico and transported by individuals across the border, which is technically illegal without a doctor’s prescription.  Older folks are less likely to be inspected.  Some cross so frequently that they have Global Entry allowing them expedited customs handling.  When they get across, they mail the pills, careful not to use a credit card and to apply a fake return address, because they believe postal inspectors are more likely to open mail without a return.  The movement and the logistics are growing and evolving.  Most of this is free and reportedly supported by various US philanthropic outfits.

Of course, the Mexican connection is not the only system.  Others have long depended on low-cost shipments via tele-medicine in the US or from Europe; countries where abortions are legal and the necessary pills are often available to women over-the counter.

The data even before the repeal of Roe indicated that clinic-based abortions had drastically declined and that pills were widely available.  Those opposed to women having control of their own bodies were already involved in something of a last gasp, even though the collateral damage to many lower-income women and their families in abortion banned states will be permanent.  Nonetheless, this new underground railroad of sorts will prove once again that prohibition doesn’t work.  Where there is a will, there is a way.