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Border & Immigration

With Roe v. Wade on the brink, Tijuana abortion clinics ready for more patients

Tijuana has long been a destination for medical tourism. Americans can get root canals, plastic surgery and even liposuctions at a fraction of the price they pay back home.

With abortion recently legalized in Baja California and the U.S. Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade, abortion services will likely be added to that list.

“I think Tijuana can be the capital of abortion for people who come from the United States and have a procedure in a discreet and convenient manner,” said Luisa Garcia, director of Profem, a company that has four clinics in Mexico.

Profem has had a clinic in Mexico City for 15 years and also runs clinics in Pachuca and Mexicali.

In October, Baja California legalized abortion — up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and longer in cases of rape or when a woman’s life is in danger. Profem opened its first Tijuana clinic in March.

The company charges as little as $200, and the procedure can be done on the same day as the initial consultation.

Profem’s clinics in Mexicali and Tijuana have received a little over 100 patients since opening. And, even though the company doesn't advertise in the United States, patients are already coming from California, Arizona and Texas.

Most of them come from border communities like San Diego, San Ysidro, Calexico, Yuma, Cathedral City and Phoenix, Garcia said.

Even with the liberalization of reproductive rights in Mexico, there are still significant challenges, Garcia and others say.

The first one is education, Garcia said. Many people in Baja California still think abortions are illegal. And some patients are afraid that having an abortion will prevent them from getting pregnant in the future, she said.

Another big obstacle is finding a landlord willing to rent to the clinic. Profem had originally secured a lease in an upscale development within walking distance of the border, but the landlord backed out after finding out that the company is an abortion provider.

“As soon as you say ‘abortion,’ the place is no longer available,” Garcia said.

The company does not make the locations of its clinics public to avoid being targeted by anti-abortion groups as some clinics are in the United States.

Dr. Arturo Posada, one of Profem’s doctors, said he is on the front lines of a global fight.

“We believe women have the right to decide what to do with their pregnancies,” he said. “Unfortunately, that right has been denied. Not just in Mexico but all over the world.”

The majority of Posada’s patients come from Mexico. But he’s noticed a steady increase of Americans.

The first month, there was only one. Then three. In April, five Americans visited the clinic, including a person from Texas. “The numbers keep increasing,” he said.

If Roe v. Wade does indeed fall, Posada said, the numbers will only increase.