The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


May 4, 2022/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team

When Women Can’t Be Mothers

Mother or whore. The Western Christian tradition dominant in the United States and México doesn’t leave any room for nuance. God and the devil. Good and evil. Adam and Eve — blame Eve! Women’s sexuality only becomes godly when exercised for procreation. Everything else, a sin to be punished.


Those of us in the US who accidentally became pregnant before Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, remember the agony of making the right choice — and then struggling with how to carry that choice out. We knew back then, as pregnant women know now, that motherhood may not be a wise option for many reasons. Witness, for instance, the women stuck today at the Mexican border with several children in tow, pregnant again, often due to rape.


This week, with the U.S. Supreme Court now publicly poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, we highlight the exceptional work of Verónica Cruz Sánchez, founder of Las Libres, an organization dedicated to framing women’s rights as human rights. Las Libres — Free Women — is helping communities understand that the choice doesn’t come down to mother or whore. The real core question pregnant women face: whether they can ensure their own good health and the health of the child if they go ahead and have the baby.


Las Libres is successfully helping individual women exercise their choice to abort. It’s also freeing those imprisoned for making that decision and changing laws that restrict women’s right to choose. All these successes rest on a growing network of women willing to provide whatever support a pregnant woman might need.


I would have loved to have the help of Las Libres when I found myself in a panic. Thank goodness that women today, in both México and also now in Texas, can get the loving support of women from the Las Libres network to help them achieve their reproductive health goals. Motherhood will indeed always remain godly — when the time is right.


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Reproductive Justice through Women’s Solidarity

In 2006, the New York-based global advocacy group Human Rights Watch honored Verónica Cruz Sánchez, founder of Las Libres, with its prestigious annual Defender of Human Rights award for her work expanding women's rights. Over the years, the tireless activism of Cruz has helped free countless women imprisoned for abortion and miscarriage, and, in 2021, México finally decriminalized abortion, after a long campaign that Cruz and other activist women waged. That decriminalization still did not make abortion legal nationally, but activists are continuing to register gains in many Mexican states.

You founded Las Libres in 2000 in Guanajuato. Did you start there because Guanajuato ranks as one of México’s most conservative states?


Men throughout México have not supported social, economic, or political gender equality. Domestically, men don’t share responsibility for housework or childcare. Nor do they supply child support. And the epidemic of femicides shows that our society does not value women’s lives. No wonder — in this environment — that women haven’t had the right to make autonomous reproductive decisions.

When I found out years ago that over 2,000 women nationwide were serving prison sentences for deciding to end an unwanted pregnancy, I felt enraged. Women were even getting imprisoned for miscarriages! Those women, the suspicion went, must have somehow caused the loss of the baby. I joined with other activists in a fight to free all these imprisoned women and change the penal code to decriminalize a woman’s choice.

A big part of our work has been getting women to realize that they don’t have to accept violence or infringement of their bodily autonomy, that to get justice they must be bold and have the courage to make complaints.


Who has been responsible for charging women with these “crimes?”

This largely Catholic society deems women’s sexuality to be criminal. In one case in Guerrero, an indigenous woman had an extramarital affair, became pregnant, and had an abortion. Her father and uncle filed charges against her. No investigation took place. Local prejudices passed judgment upon her. She was sentenced to 22 years!

Society, on the other hand, celebrates men’s sexuality. If a married man sees other women, he’s considered cool. In fact, if a married man doesn’t have affairs, he’s branded either a fool or gay.


But your movement succeeded in decriminalizing abortion, in a deeply Catholic nation!


Yes, last September, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled penalizing abortion unconstitutional. In our campaign, we separated “beliefs” from “rights,” religious from social. Now today more and more women are speaking out publicly about their own choice to abort. This encourages other women to seek the reproductive services they need without shame.


Under some of the new laws we’ve been able to pass, only girls younger than 12 need parental consent for an abortion. Child and teenage mothers are giving birth to 1,000 babies every day in México, often from rape or arranged marriages.


Do women have enough access to reproductive health services?


We favor medically induced, non-invasive abortions that can be done in the safety and privacy of home, with either in-person or virtual support from a woman in our network. But some women prefer to abort in a medical setting, and only hospitals have enough providers. That means limited access in rural areas. But no one at least need worry about cost. National health insurance covers these procedures. In one case, a state’s medical services sent, free of charge, a helicopter to pick up a girl who lived in the mountains.


What makes the presence of another woman so important?


We see the solidarity another woman’s presence can provide to a woman having an abortion as crucial. A successful experience depends on the support of other women who can protect and give legal advice, encourage and reassure.   


México is now moving ahead of the US in terms of women’s right to choose. With the drastic cuts in abortion services in Texas, you’re now getting calls for help from across the border. What message do you have for women north of the border?


We’re happy to help all women! We can get them the medications for at-home abortions and provide virtual accompaniment to support them through the procedure.


US women, please remember that things here in Guanajuato used to be much worse than what women are experiencing now in Texas. So don’t give up hope. Remember that we have a resource — the solidarity of women — that goes beyond money. And we women, contrary to what some men in power believe, count as people too. Remind male policy makers, at every opportunity, that no one can claim to support human rights without supporting the rights of women.


Beyond Rivera at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art

I went recently to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the spectacular Diego Rivera Unity mural, an artwork well worth a trip just by itself. But I ended up pleasantly surprised to see quite a bit of art done by currently working Latinx artists.  I don’t trust trendiness, so I wasn’t sure if MOMA would do right by these artists or just turn them into the flavor of the month. But thank goodness, their work stands on its own merit. 

In Drawing the Line, Rael San Fratello at the U.S.-Mexico Border, architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello offer a series that examines the impact of the border wall on families and homes, cultures and communities.

This elegant and insightful 2002 series struck me as alternately clever, beautiful, and sad. The maps chart a scary possible course that we must reject, a future where family separation becomes the new normal.

Liz Hernández’ wall mural, Conjuro para la sanación de nuestra futuro (A spell for the healing of our future), presents a collage of milagros, miracle charms, that symbolize spirituality and community health.

This work calls to the best in us, with images and icons we all can relate to.

And last but not least, the museum’s permanent collection features a piece by José Clemente Orozco, Sleeping (The Family). Orozco (1883-1949), one of the “Big Three” Mexican muralists, could be outspoken with his social critiques, but ever so gentle in his images of poor and working people. I found this piece especially tender.

My short but very sweet trip to this exhibit reminded me of the words of Alberto Rios, the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona. In his poem Museum Heart, written for the opening of the Scottsdale Museum of Art in 1999, Rios wrote:

We, each of us, keep what we remember in our hearts.

We, all of us, keep what we remember in museums.

In this way, museums beat inside us.

Activist Vicky Hamlin is a retired tradeswoman,
shop steward, and painter. In her painting and
in this column, she shines the light on the lives
of working people and the world they live in.


Recent news reports and commentaries, from progressive and mainstream media,
on life and struggles on both sides of the US-México border


David Barkin and Alberto Betancourt, Integration with the United States or Latin American Independence? NACLA. At the last Community of Latin American and Caribbean States meeting, Mexico’s president proposed contradicting relationships with North America.


John Ackerman, Susana Prieto: La lucha por los derechos laborales, tv-unam. Una entrevista con Susana Prieto, actual Diputada Federal por Chihuahua y pionera en la lucha por la democratización sindical.


Jared Laureles, Votaciones en Panasonic: gana sindicato independiente en Reynosa, La Jornada. El SNITIS obtuvo mil 200 votos y 390 fueron para el sindicato adherido a la CTM.


Joe Biden and AMLO are trying to coordinate in the face of the border migration crisis, Valley Post. The leaders talked about “efforts to create jobs in Central America and expand legal avenues for immigrants and refugees.”


Oscar Lopez, A Woman’s Haunting Disappearance Sparks Outrage in México Over Gender Violence, New York Times. The case of Debanhi Escobar, 18, in Monterrey has ignited a national outcry over justice for missing women.


Nick Miroff, The border wall Trump called unclimbable is taking a grim toll, Washington Post. A medical journal offers one of the first attempts to measure injuries and deaths resulting from falls along new sections of the wall.


The Mexico Solidarity Project brings together activists from various socialist and left organizations and individuals committed to worker and global justice who see the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of México as a watershed moment. AMLO and his progressive Morena party aim to end generations of corruption, impoverishment, and subservience to US interests. Our Project supports not just Morena, but all Mexicans struggling for basic rights, and opposes US efforts to undermine organizing and México’s national sovereignty. 


Editorial committee: Meizhu Lui, Bruce Hobson, Bill Gallegos, Sam Pizzigati, Courtney Childs, Victoria Hamlin, Agatha Hinman, Steven Hollis. To give feedback or get involved yourself, please email us!


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