EL PASO—If most Texas abortion clinics shut down, the lack of services will affect women in Mexico too; a country where abortion is tightly restricted and women can be jailed for ending a pregnancy.
With limited options, Mexican women routinely cross the border to seek services at abortion clinics in Texas.
“It would be a great impact because some of those women will have nowhere to go,” said Gerri Laster, administrative director of Reproductive Services.
It’s one of the few clinics where women in the region can get abortions.
Thirty percent of the El Paso clinic’s patients are women from Mexico. Some live just across the border in Ciudad Juarez, but others travel from the interior of Mexico, including Aguascalientes, Durango and Sonora.
Another 20 percent of patients come from rural areas of far West Texas.
“They have nowhere to go and they’ll make the 4-hour drive to El Paso for services,” said Laster.
The clinic could be forced to close because, like most abortion facilities in Texas, it does not meet the new standards set in the abortion bill.
If the bill passes as expected, the impact could be felt on both sides of the border.
Abortion is only allowed in Mexico in cases of rape. All but three states allow a woman to terminate a pregnancy when it endangers the mother’s life.
But in women’s health organizations say misinformation about legal abortion means many women, even rape victims do not have access to services.
Mexico City legalized abortion in 2007, but for many women, the capital is too far and the trip is too expensive.
But even women who can afford to pay for an abortion in Mexico cross the border to Texas to avoid problems with the law or maintain their privacy.
According to a study by GIRE, a Mexico City based reproductive rights organization, 127 women have been prosecuted in the past 5 years.
Punishment varies from state to state. In Tlaxcala, women can receive up to 15 days in jail. While in the state of Sonora the sentence can be up to six years.
Some states impose a fine or require community service if a woman is convicted.
Reproductive rights advocates in Mexico are closely following the battle over abortion in Texas.
“We’re cheering on the Senator from Texas,” said Ana María Ávila of GIRE, referring to Texas Senator Wendy Davis (D) of Fort Worth.
Senator Davis led an 11-hour filibuster that ended the first attempt to pass the restrictive abortion bill.
“She’s a very brave woman,” said Avila.
But the bill is once again before Texas lawmakers after Governor Rick Perry called a second special session.
If passed it would tighten regulations on abortion clinics, doctors and ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Opponents say it will force most clinics to shut their doors.
“I guess we’ll eventually, we’ll be a country of right-to-lifers and not be able to make your own decisions about your own body,” said Laster of the bill.
That’s the scenario women face in Mexico now.
If they can no longer find an abortion clinic in Texas some predict those women will still look for alternatives to terminate their pregnancies.
“They’re going to revert to any means necessary, whether it’s safe or not, “said Laster.