The underground abortion networks around the world

The underground abortion networks around the world
Photo by Derek French on

Back in June, the US Supreme Court came out with a decision that said, in so many words, that people in the US didn’t have the right to an abortion. This didn’t make it illegal to get an abortion, but it sent it back to states to make their own decisions. Some states (like Texas and Florida) have really restrictive abortion bans making it difficult or near impossible to get an abortion safely.

So in place of abortion providers, abortion care networks are starting to pop up in some places. These networks are often international and help people access abortion medicine from other countries. In the US, a lot of this comes from Mexico, where its Supreme Court effectively decriminalized abortion in 2021. But much of this is operating in a kind of gray space legally.

This isn’t just an issue in the US, though; in Europe, laws covering abortions differ a lot between countries. In Spain, for example, abortions past 14 weeks are extremely restricted, so people who need one past that point often have to go somewhere else, like the Netherlands. Poland, in particular, has cracked down on access to abortion, and lots of the people arriving in the Netherlands in recent years are from there.

In Europe, these networks can be a little more formalized, and one of the big ones is called Abortion Without Borders (AWB). The idea is pretty simple –get people who need abortions to somewhere they can get one. In the Netherlands, at least, there’s a community of people waiting, hosting bed and breakfast locations for people there to get abortion care.

As abortion restrictions are becoming more stringent in some places, the big picture seems to be that other places are willing to step in to help. Of course, not all of the help is official, and some of it works in legal gray spaces, but all of it exists to help people access medical care unavailable where they live.