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Supporting Migrant Women: Comprehensive approach at the U.S. Border

In Mexico, volunteers called “acompañantes” assist women seeking abortions. These volunteers, like Crystal P. Lira, offer guidance on self-managed medication abortions, following World Health Organization guidelines. They provide not only information and medications but also emotional support to overcome stigma, religious, and cultural barriers.

Mexico’s Supreme Court recently ruled that national laws criminalizing abortion are unconstitutional, but further state-level legal changes are needed to decriminalize abortion in all states fully. At present, 20 Mexican states still criminalize abortion.

Lira’s journey as an activist began after she faced an unwanted pregnancy and struggled to access abortion services. The ease of learning the abortion protocol contrasted with the challenge of understanding the political aspects of abortion rights. In Mexico, where the majority is Catholic, anti-abortion sentiment is strong, exemplified by right-wing activist Eduardo Verástegui’s presidential campaign focused on anti-abortion policies.

Despite the conservative backlash, abortion activists in Mexico are committed to advocating for reproductive rights. They plan to work on issues such as obstetric violence, maternal mortality, and forced contraception.

Lira and her colleagues are also expanding their outreach to migrants approaching the U.S. border. Many migrants experience violence, including sexual abuse, on their journey, and some seek abortion services. The volunteers aim to provide information and support for the physical and mental well-being of these migrants, partnering with local organizations to offer workshops and reproductive health education.

In addition to abortion information, their program includes body literacy and dances to celebrate the female body, promoting self-knowledge and empowerment among the women seeking shelter and opportunity at the U.S. border.

It’s Sunday night and Crystal P. Lira is not answering her messages. Inside the headquarters of Colectiva Bloodys y Projects, an organization that has supported reproductive rights near the U.S.-Mexico border since 2016, her only concern is for the woman she has provided with a safe space to get an abortion.

Lira, who lives in Tijuana, in northern Mexico, is one among dozens of Mexican “acompañantes” — volunteers who support women wanting to terminate a pregnancy. Located all over the country, most acompañantes offer virtual guidance through an abortion protocol in which no clinics or prescriptions are needed.

Developed by activists after decades of facing abortion bans and restrictions in most of Mexico’s 32 states, the protocol encourages women to trust self-managed medication abortions following guidelines established by the World Health Organization.

“Accompaniment means that we facilitate information, medications and everything a woman needs to get a safe abortion at home,” Lira said. “But we also provide emotional support and support to fight stigma, religious and cultural barriers.”

Mexico’s Supreme Court recently ruled that national laws prohibiting abortions are unconstitutional and violate women’s rights. The ruling, which extended Latin American’s trend of widening abortion access, happened a year after the court’s U.S. counterpart went in the opposite direction.

The Mexican decision did not have the same immediate impact as Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing women’s access to abortion on a nationwide basis.

Read the full article.

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