Gente Power is a monthly Somos series profiling the Latine activists, cultural workers, educators, and movement leaders creating change in their communities and paying it forward for the next generation. This month, we’re talking with Mexican activist Crystal Pérez Lira, who’s providing abortion pills to people who need it across the border in Texas.
When Crystal Pérez Lira had an abortion in 2012, her mindset about the procedure began to shift. “When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to have an abortion," Pérez Lira tells Refinery29 Somos. “I do what I do [today] because of the emotions I experienced. They were conflictive — not the most positive. But they made me reflect and question myself.”
She felt isolation and confusion. She never thought getting an abortion was a decision she’d have to face. A lot of women she knows think that way. Mexican culture, she explains, can be heavily influenced by religion — Catholicism, specifically. According to the U.S. State Department, more than 80% of the Mexican population identify as Catholic. That can often create tension between faith and family.
Ultimately, more than a decade ago, before abortion was legalized in Mexico, Pérez Lira had her medication abortion in San Diego. The experience helped her understand the magnitude of making this choice, one way or another.
“It is not just that some women have the option and others do not,” she says. “After my abortion, I felt happy and liberated, very grateful. I was very sure I wanted to do it, but I still had to process it.”
"After my abortion, I felt happy and liberated, very grateful. "
Crystal Pérez Lira
The longtime activist and performer was compelled to take on the issue of abortion rights through her work. “Being an activist did not start from one night to another,” she says. “It was an entire process, even before I had an abortion.”
Pérez Lira had previously been involved in Movimiento Okupa, a social movement where people took abandoned buildings and used them for social justice purposes such as fighting against local political figures and advocating for equity in the city. She was involved with the co-ed group for less than a year, frustrated with the fact the men in the group made most of the decisions and seemed to lack clear objectives. Still, she met some of the first active feminists in Tijuana during her time with the group.
Beyond her initial encounters with activist work, Pérez Lira also had a creative streak. She frequently performed poetry in the streets or on buses. A few weeks ago, she found some old notebooks, surprised by what she wrote. She hadn’t had an abortion yet, but she was “already thinking about it” in her poetry.
Her experiences up to this point led her to establish Bloodys and Projects, a Facebook group that’s now a collective of activists who help people access and find safe abortion care. The idea behind the group, she explains, has always been to publish “whatever is needed,” including mental health resources and ways to contact volunteers who will accompany those seeking an abortion.
The inspiration for the group wasn’t just her own experience. It was seeing people online talk about their questions about abortion medication.
“Abortion medicine had worked for me and I wondered why it did not work for them,” Pérez Lira says. “I asked myself how these women were going through it.”
Around that time, she learned about Las Libres, a feminist organization in Guanajuato, México, that accompanies those seeking an abortion. She watched a short documentary film about the organization, which showed how their volunteers help people throughout the abortion process. “My experience watching the documentary was of surprise, trust, and gratitude,” she says. “Also admiration — knowing people were already doing something about it.”
In June 2016, Verónica Cruz Sánchez, founder of Las Libres, trained Pérez Lira and other artivistas (activists who perform in the arts) to help those seeking medication abortions in Mexico. Training included how to practice the pregnancy termination protocol done at home. They discussed how to accompany the person seeking an abortion and how to show their support during a sensitive time. They also talked about the importance of eschewing anonymity and the activists being public about their positions.
Beyond her work as an in-person companion, she’s also leading the efforts at Bloodys Red Tijuana. Formerly known as aborto seguro en casa (meaning “safe abortion at home”), the group is colloquially known as Bloodys because most women who initially wanted help came from the original Facebook group.
"We must do whatever it is we need to do to make things happen."
CRYSTAL PÉREZ LIRA
More than a decade after Perez Lira went to California for her own abortion, she is now helping people in the U.S. who need access to the procedure after the overturn of Roe v Wade. “I told myself, because I am someone who can cross the bridge with the medicine and I can send it, I said, why not?” Pérez Lira says.
Before the reversal, when abortion restrictive laws were first being created, Bloodys had fulfilled just six requests for abortion pills from 2019 to 2021. Since the overturning of Roe, demand has increased significantly and the requests are now in the dozens across Texas, California, Georgia, and Oklahoma.
Despite California being a politically progressive state, she says some Californians seek assistance since they don’t have access to the abortion pill due to barriers like immigration status and affordability.
“We never imagined it would be a reality to see this retrogression,” she says.
In a few years, Pérez Lira hopes abortion rights in the U.S. will shift again, but in favor of more access, not less. In the meantime, she says Mexican activists like her will do their part to support all those in need of abortions — regardless of their country of residence.
“We must do whatever it is we need to do to make things happen,” she says. “It is about seeing more women know that they can enjoy themselves under their own decisions. It can be hard or tiring to do this job — but it is gratifying to see other women experience that freedom.”