Across the American southern border, an outfit called Bloodys Red Tijuana, led by a woman named Crystal Pérez Lira, provides abortion pills – as well as advice and emotional support – to women in the U.S. who can no longer access them. To do so, they collaborate with small companion cells stationed in several U.S. states.
“They’re being very underground,” Pérez Lira told STAT News. “It’s very, very secretive.”
It has to be. Numerous states have effectively banned abortions following the repeal of Roe v. Wade. And in Texas, they’re not only essentially illegal – private citizens are deputized, and even incentivized, to enforce the state’s restrictions themselves. The results have proven near-fatal for some in need of abortions, and traumatizing for scores of others.
Pérez Lira knows what it’s like to need an abortion, but to be unable to get one safely and easily. She told STAT News that, roughly a decade ago, she walked alone from Tijuana to San Diego – about a 20-mile journey – to get the pills she needed to abort her own unexpected pregnancy.
Her harrowing tale inspired her to launch Bloodys Red Tijuana in 2016. Working locally at first, the organization began fielding requests from U.S. residents in 2019. When Roe fell, the need shot up, she says – the group has now helped about 60 Americans get the abortion pills they sought (and hundreds of individuals overall, as it continues to work in Mexico, too).
Despite the influx, all of the organization’s services are provided for free, with operations largely funded through donations they accept from those who have the means to offer them – a decision also inspired by her past experiences. When she needed an abortion herself, Pérez Lira had asked her ex-boyfriend for help, only to be met with belittling and discouragement.
She doesn’t want that for anyone else. Others in need of an abortion are “going to be asking for the money, they’re going to get harassed, they’re going to delay their decision,” she said to STAT News. “Even if they go through it, they’re going to always leave with that fear of being harassed. And that’s not fair.”
Pérez Lira’s U.S. network continues to expand to help these individuals, with over 200 stateside volunteers having been trained by Bloodys to understand how to administer the pills, what complications to look out for, and how best to support those going through the process.
Her goal, beyond continuing to help those in need of access to abortion pills, is to fortify and grow the infrastructure of help she’s been building – so people can get abortions regardless of any existing or proposed laws on the subject.
She told STAT News: “We have to be vigilant, and always ahead of them.”