In 2015 El Paso resident, Liz Stuntz terminated an unwanted pregnancy using a drug her boyfriend bought in Juarez just across the Mexican border of the United States.
Stuntz’s boyfriend crossed the border to buy misoprostol, a pill that makes up half of the two-drug combination prescribed for medical abortions, at a pharmacy so Stuntz could interrupt her pregnancy at home.
Now with a Texas law prohibiting abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity in the fetus, more women could take Stuntz’s route to buy misoprostol across the border in Mexico.
In the Mexican state of Chihuahua, abortion is a crime.
Mexico’s Supreme Court this month ruled that the law criminalizing abortion in another northern border state was unconstitutional and advised judges across the country they must take that into account in similar cases.
Still, Mariela Castro, a member of the Green Tide Chihuahua collective, which fights for the sexual and reproductive rights of Chihuahuan women, said it would be necessary for individuals to file injunctions in Chihuahua courts.
Stuntz considers the outlook for access to reproductive health services in Texas frightening having come from Portland where Planned Parenthood clinics were accessible and cheaper.
She also considers that the approximately six weeks until fetal cardiac activity can be detected is not enough. She was between seven and eight weeks into her pregnancy when she found out.
Nongovernmental organizations in Mexico, such as Juarez Feminista, are providing support and guidance to women seeking abortions.
“There’s more options to be accompanied to the pharmacies to get misoprostol, to be walked through the process and that’s a huge benefit,” Stuntz said. “If I had known that I might have chosen to go that route.”
Because of pandemic-related travel restrictions that limit some cross-border traffic, much of the guidance for the use of the drugs is virtual or over the phone.
“I feel there is a greater responsibility that way because you are not physically there to know about controlling the bleeding or what is really being expelled,” said Samantha Maldonado, a Juarez activist who has guided at least four women through the process from El Paso, one of them just a few weeks ago.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas this month, asking a judge to declare the Texas law invalid but Castro, of Green Tide, said that even before the new Texas law, women “were already crossing to get misoprostol in an accessible way.”
According to the World Health Organization, the combination of mifepristone and misoprostol or only misoprostol, “is essential to provide access to safe, effective and acceptable abortion” and published a guide for their use titled Safe Abortion.