May 28th marks the International Day of Action for Women’s Health and the 14th birthday of SAAF grantee partner Fondo MARIA – the first abortion fund in Latin America. In this time I have gone from being one of founders of Fondo MARIA, to serving on the Board of the Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF), so it seems like a great opportunity to tell the story of how it came about and why MARIA’s work is still so important.
Three young women decided it was an ideal moment to create an abortion fund.
In 2007, I saw the historic triumph of a law guaranteeing abortion up to 12 weeks in Mexico City. This change was born out of an important mobilisation that included us as a group of young activists who were part of the feminist movement for sexual and reproductive rights.
Fondo MARIA is the culmination of the work of a group of young activists who were formed by Balance in 2000 and who later formed DECIDIR: Coalition for Sexual Citizenship, the first youth collective to define abortion as its sole issue. With DECIDIR we took to the streets to make some public artistic interventions which drew attention to key women’s rights issues. Soon we began to receive requests for support from young people who wanted access to safe abortion. At that time medical abortion was not known by activist networks, so we created a website with more information, and also set up an email address to respond to enquiries. As DECIDIR we took to the streets and occupied the Legislative Assembly together with other organisations and collectives to advocate for legal change. Our compañeras from DECIDIR represented the youth at the Supreme Court hearing in 2009.
When the abortion law was approved by the Supreme Court, we realised that those who cannot access legal abortion services in Mexico City were being discriminated against.
It is in response to this that we decided to bring the perspective of social justice and create a political advocacy tool that could expand the benefits of the law to the other states of Mexico. We wanted to make it clear that the other 32 states had yet to guarantee this right.
From the beginning, MARIA has been an intergenerational effort of solidarity between countries, between states and support networks. When it was first established, we received support from the National Network of Abortion Funds in the United States and, now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, Fondo Maria is part of bi-national solidarity to increase access to abortion for US citizens. Those who accompany people to have safe abortions strengthen their empowerment while building the power of the women who use the Fund. Together, we have been able to accompany 145,000 people in a framework of respect for their autonomy.
Together, we have learned to stay safe and to put the needs of people going through abortion at the centre.
Although MARIA has always been a political effort to make visible the support that exists in favour of abortion in our country, it has also managed to demonstrate that feminists know how to work in intergenerational projects that can be maintained, grow and evolve to achieve sexual and reproductive justice.
Many things have changed in these 14 years – the networks of accompaniment have reproduced themselves and have woven together a web of collaboration, learning, complexity and self-management that transcends regional borders. The ‘green tide’ has changed us all and taught us to dream bigger. MARIA is still there, growing with us.
This May 28th it is important to remember that access to safe, legal and free abortion is fundamental to guarantee the health of all women. Today, as 14 years ago, I raise my voice so that all women who continue to be persecuted, discriminated against, and stigmatised are free to decide.
Because motherhood will be wanted or it will not be!