Abortion Rights in Mexico

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This International Herald Tribune article reports:

Dominated by liberals, Mexico City’s legislature is expected to legalize abortion in a few weeks. The bill would make this city one of the largest entities in Latin America to break with a long tradition of women resorting to illegal clinics and midwives to end unwanted pregnancies.

But the measure has stirred a vicious debate and shaken this heavily Roman Catholic country to its roots. In recent days, the bill has dominated conversations from family dinner tables to the president’s office. Celebrities and politicians of all stripes have lined up on both sides, throwing verbal darts at one another. Catholic and feminist groups have staged dueling protests and marches.

The contours of the debate are familiar to veterans of similar battles in the United States. But Mexico City’s law would be groundbreaking in Latin America, where most countries allow abortion only under strict conditions, like when the life of the mother is in danger or when she is a victim of rape or incest. Only in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guyana can women have abortions for any reason during the first trimester. Three countries : Chile, Nicaragua and El Salvador : ban it without exception.

The Mexico City bill would make it legal to have an abortion during the first trimester for any reason. The procedure would be free at city health facilities. Private hospitals would be required to provide an abortion to any woman who asks for one, though doctors with religious or ethical objections would not be required to perform abortions. …

… Government officials estimate at least 110,000 women a year seek illegal abortions in Mexico, and many abortion rights groups say the number is much higher. At least 88 women died in 2006 from botched abortions, the Health Ministry says, though it is far from clear that all cases were reported.

For the well off, it is common knowledge that certain gynecologists perform illegal abortions in private hospitals, disguising the procedure as something else on documents.

For the poor, unwanted pregnancies often mean finding a midwife or an underground clinic, abortion rights advocates say. Some young women also resort to huge doses of drugs for arthritis and gastritis, available over the counter, that can cause miscarriages. Others use teas made from traditional herbs to cause miscarriages. All of these methods carry dangers. …

Read the entire article here.

Just a year ago Human Rights News reported that rape victims were denied legal abortions in Mexico. More information from HRW about the current legal framework in Mexico is available here.

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