The ever-expanding Mexican abortion option

Fascinating stuff.

One last-minute round-trip flight from Biloxi, Mississippi, to Cancún, Mexico, runs about $171 USD; three nights at a three-star hotel there can cost as little as $129. A three-day car rental in the resort town rings in at just $20 per day. And the price for one surgical abortion at MSI Reproductive Choices’ Cancún clinic would be about $350. The total cost for a trip to Cancún to access reproductive health services no longer available in some American states? $710.

Starting November 23, when the international sexual health organization MSI Reproductive Health Services opens the doors to its first Cancún reproductive health center, a pregnant American from a US state where abortion is banned could find the procedure to be both more affordable and more accessible in Mexico. Quintana Roo, the Mexican state where Cancún is located, has become one of at least a dozen Mexican states to decriminalize abortion in the last two years amid a series of judicial rulings that have strengthened reproductive rights, culminating in a September Mexican Supreme Court ruling that made state laws criminalizing abortion unconstitutional nationwide.

While $710 is not an insignificant sum for a pregnant person living near the poverty line in America, it could still turn out to be several hundred dollars less expensive than the costs associated with obtaining similar treatments in post-Dobbs America, where 14 states have banned abortion completely, and four more have restricted it to the first trimester. A surgical abortion alone can cost more than $1,000 in the US, on top of out-of-state transportation and lodging needs. All these factors came into play when MSI planned its Cancún annex, which is being funded by an anonymous US donor.

“It is funny that sometimes it may be cheaper for you guys to come to Cancún than for us to go to Cancún,” says Araceli Lopez Nava Vázquez, MSI’s Latin America regional managing director. Indeed, dozens of US airports offer nonstop flights to the popular Mexican vacation destination. “We thought the specific location could definitely help American women—with the additional benefit of lower prices that we have in Mexico compared to the US.”

Called “reproductive health migration” by abortion-rights advocates and “abortion tourism” by detractors, people from multiple continents have crossed international borders seeking reproductive health care for decades. Traveling internationally for healthcare is a common practice in abortion-restricted Poland, some South American countries, and parts of Asia, for example. But the movement has gained new urgency and visibility after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June 2022, spurring some US states to adopt more restrictive abortion laws just as Mexican states were loosening theirs.


MSI is not the only option for Americans, who also can take matters into their own hands by making a cross-border trek to a Mexican pharmacy and pay as little as $20 USD to purchase one abortifacient—misoprostol—over-the-counter, no questions asked. As an alternative to international travel, Mexican-based grassroots reproductive justice organizations like Las Libres are also helping hundreds of pregnant Americans obtain abortion pills from Mexico each month via mail.

This cross-border care infrastructure is merely the latest iteration of a whipsawing reproductive rights saga that has existed between the United States and Mexico for more than half a century. Today, Mexicans are helping Americans procure abortion services, but in the past, the roles have been reversed—a consequence of the influence of money, politics, and religion in each country. As Lina-Maria Murillo, an assistant professor of gender, women’s and sexuality studies at the University of Iowa, notes, “There is a long history of people crossing the US-Mexico border for care.”

Read on for more of that history, which I knew a little about but learned much more. We have discussed this before, mostly several years ago but also again more recently, post-Dobbs. This is obviously a limited option, both because of cost and travel and also because medication abortion is always preferable when it is in play, but at this point any additional options are good news. Given the zeal with which some have tried to make travelling out of state for an abortion illegal, one must assume that travelling out of country for an abortion will be on the target list as well. Anything and everything like that is just a Republican trifecta away. In the meantime, hopefully this will help some women who need it.

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