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The abortion pill guards run a clandestine network from Mexico to Republican states

Denny spends many of her days confined to her bed packing tiny pills into zip-top plastic bags, then into brown envelopes, ready to be mailed to people looking for abortion medication in states like Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

The pills are mifepristone and misoprostol – two drugs that are the subject of intense political and legal debate.

Every package of pills Denny messages puts them at risk. But they won’t stop doing it.

“The legal gray area is kind of where we live,” Denny, who works with the WeSaveUs group and uses the pronouns they/they, told The Daily Beast. “What’s legal and what’s right are two different things.”

when ru Last June, protesters took to the streets in their thousands, some wearing banners and T-shirts that promised to “aid and abet abortion.”

Almost a year later, a small group of committed activists built secret support networks to do just that. Denny is one of a handful of activists in states that enforce draconian bans, distribute abortion drugs, and risk prosecution every single day.

Abortion pills are packed in brown envelopes and sent to Republican-controlled states.

Courtesy of my religion

Denny, who identifies as non-binary, lives in Louisville, Kentucky, a progressive urban hotspot in a very red state. (The Daily Beast only uses her first name due to concerns about prosecution.)

Kentucky’s trigger ban went into effect immediately thereafter Roe v. Wade It was overturned, and abortion was completely banned in the state, with very few exceptions. Overnight, Kentucky became one of the most restrictive abortion-restricting states in the country.

Denny knew they had to take action. They have been involved in activism around reproductive rights, and have always been guided by the principle of bodily autonomy.

“It’s about: What do you want and need? What will make you feel safe? If what will make them feel safe is getting out of the condition and into a clinic, I will help them. If what makes them feel safe is taking pills at home, I will help them.” Best: “Everyone deserves to be cared for.”

Despite the legally fraught new environment, Denny started working with WeSaveUs last fall. Since then, anti-abortion activists have targeted abortion drugs, filed lawsuits against the Food and Drug Administration, and protested outside pharmacies, making Denny’s work even more dangerous.

Denny’s bedroom is the end of a long secret network that begins thousands of miles away.

Smuggled drugs from Mexico

The underground network begins with activists like Veronica Cruz Sanchez, founder and CEO of Las Libres, a feminist organization founded in Guanajuato, Mexico, in 2000. For two decades, Cruz and her colleagues worked to distribute the abortion drug misoprostol throughout Mexico.

Abortion has always existed, and always will be. It will not cease to exist. Provides medicine for free, Cruz says of Las Libres’ philosophy, even if states restrict it, even if provinces restrict it, doesn’t mean it stops abortion — it just puts people’s lives and health at risk.

When the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 8 in 2021, which drastically restricts access to abortion in the state, Cruz turned her eyes north to the US. Mexico’s Supreme Court had just ruled that it was unconstitutional to punish abortion as a crime, a hugely progressive step in what was once a deeply conservative country. Cruz says that while Mexico appeared to be taking a step forward, she could have seen the United States move in the opposite direction.

“We decided to form a network across borders,” Cruz told The Daily Beast. Abortion pills are available without a prescription in Mexico. Cruz organized hundreds of volunteers to take the abortion pill across the border, first to Texas, then to How long ru Fell, to other enemy nations. Some of them are older expatriate American women who have settled in Mexico, and are sometimes called “old hippies”.

Veronica Cruz Sanchez, founder of Las Libres, has hundreds of volunteers take abortion pills across the border from Mexico into the US

Las Liberes

Cruz is keen to protect the identities of, or how, the activists involved in smuggling grain across the border. People who take the beans across borders don’t know exactly where they came from or who they’re going to, Cruz says, which makes each node in the network more secure.

“Nobody knows, in general, the woman who’s having an abortion. She doesn’t know all the people involved so she has a safe abortion. And the people who are helping her don’t know who the person is doing the abortion. That’s our safety process,” Cruz says.

Las Libres is committed to getting abortion medication to the most vulnerable populations in the United States, including illegal immigrants, the poor, and immigrants, despite any restrictive laws. Cruz sees abortion as a human right that lawmakers cannot take away.

“We’re not supporting and promoting crime – we’re helping a right that the state can’t guarantee right now in restricted areas,” Cruz says.

However, anti-abortion groups in the United States have set their sights on further restricting abortion medication.

In April, a case brought by anti-abortion activists who tried to restrict the drug mifepristone reached the Supreme Court. The lawsuit alleged that the US Food and Drug Administration had rushed to approve the drug, which studies have overwhelmingly shown to be safe. A stay issued by Judge Samuel Alito has temporarily granted access to the property, but it’s unclear how the court will ultimately rule.

Activists who distribute and promote abortion drugs continue to operate in this landscape of legal uncertainty.

Once the abortion pill is smuggled into the United States by activists like those working with Las Libres, it is passed on to people like Denny. But an entire support system has sprung up to support both activists and those seeking access to abortion medication.

Connecting pregnant women to medication

“We’re not waiting for the courts and legislators to do the right thing when it comes to abortion access. Our model really builds on that: How do we provide access in the face of unjust laws?” says Elisa Wells, co-founder and co-director of Plan C.

Founded in 2015, Plan C is a nonprofit organization that provides information on how to access abortion pills in every state. The group also tests pills from online sellers and community-based providers like Denny’s – vetting every supplier they list and making sure the drug is authentic and safe.

After the Supreme Court voted to overturn abortion rights, Wells says the site saw a massive increase in traffic, jumping from about 40,000 visitors in a busy month to more than half a million overnight.

“People are realizing that these state legislatures are behaving inappropriately and causing harm to people trying to access basic medical care,” Wells says. “They realize that this is a solution that provides them with an option to become physically independent.”

Eliza Weil, co-founder of Plan C, which provides information on how to access abortion pills in every state.

Plan C

Plan C recommends telehealth providers who can prescribe birth control pills in abortion-friendly states, as well as groups like Aid Access, a nonprofit based outside the United States that mails abortion drugs into the country. But for those in restricted states, or who can’t afford to pay the high prices of some drugs online, community groups like WeSaveUs are the only option. Wells says the role for Plan C is to screen and amplify providers like Denny’s, who are on the ground and able to provide grain for free.

Wells says the ultimate goal of Plan C is to advocate for full and free access to abortion for everyone in the United States. “But while we wait for that to become a reality in the United States, we know that people need alternative sources of access right away.”

doctor. Jennifer Lincoln, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and executive director of Mayday Health, a nonprofit health education organization, is sparing no words about the battle Americans face.

“We are at war for our rights,” she says. “The mantra is: ‘We’ll save ourselves.’ We can’t wait for the Supreme Court or the politicians to fix it.”

Like Plan C, Mayday Health provides information about accessing the abortion pill. But the group focused on viral marketing and high-profile stunts. Earlier this year, they launched mobile billboards around 14 college campuses in the restricted states, which contain information on how to access abortion pills.

The anti-abortion movement has long been known for its advertising campaigns, often containing misleading information about fetal development. Mayday billboard campaigns offer balance, Lincoln says.

“You have to get people’s attention,” says Lincoln. “We’re trying to target people who are also being targeted by the anti-abortion movement.”

One of the mobile billboards that Mayday Health operates on.

Mayday Health

While groups like Mayday Health and Plan C don’t make a profit and can easily receive donations to fund their work, activists on the ground like Denny’s are in a more difficult position.

Denny’s principles, like the activists in Las Libres, mean they don’t charge for the services they provide, instead relying on donations from the wider community to survive. But it is hard to raise money when you are not open about the services you provide.

“Not being able to solicit donations publicly is upsetting,” Denny says. “Because of the legal risks involved, a lot of people and a lot of organizations that can help, who have resources they can put to that use, are afraid to come near me. They’ll listen to me.” And they call me a hero, and they say ‘don’t stop what you’re doing.’ But they actually stopped funding me, because they didn’t want the potential engagement.”

The risk of legal prosecution also takes its toll. Denny says they feel “terrified, every single day.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is an evangelical Christian who has made his anti-abortion views clear. While there is no law banning the distribution of abortion pills in Kentucky, Denny and several other activists believe it is only a matter of time before an aggressive attorney general finds a way to prosecute. (In Texas, it is illegal for anyone who is not a physician to distribute abortion pills, with the risk of imprisonment.)

“I do my best to keep myself safe, but it’s not perfect and it never will be perfect,” says Denny, “but at the same time, I’m not going to do that. I have the opportunity and the ability to do that, and people need it.”

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