May 14, 2007
On April 24, the Mexico City legislative assembly voted to permit women to have abortions up to the twelfth week of pregnancy, with it free at city health clinics, giving poor women access. At the same time, it decided to develop sex education and contraception. This only affects women living in the capital. The left wing parties predominate there, mainly the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) of Lopez Obrador, who last year strongly contested the conditions under which he was defeated by the right wing in the presidential election.
The other 31 Mexican states kept existing law, which permits abortion only in the case of rape, danger to the woman’s life or severe fetal defects. But, even in these very limited cases, abortion isn’t available for the poor, given the pressure of the Catholic church. So each year in Mexico there are almost a million underground abortions, which leads to tens of thousands of deaths. Well-off women can safely have an abortion either in a Mexican clinic or abroad.
A violent campaign was waged against the bill legalizing abortion in Mexico. Despite the existence of a sector of Catholics favorable to the liberalization of abortion, Mexican bishops brandished the threat of excommunication. Pope Benedict XVI, on the eve of his visit to a general conference of Latin American bishops in Mexico, backed them up. He railed against what he dared to call the “culture of death,” without any concern for the fate of all those women who die in horrible conditions due to underground abortions.
The right wing, in particular PAN (National Action Party) which controls the presidency of Mexico and numerous state governments, denounced “democracy in danger of death” and the “terrorism” of those who defend abortion, comparing them to Hitler. Reactionary organizations like Right to Life spread their lying views. They demand a nationwide referendum – what could appear more democratic? – which would permit them at the same time to isolate the capital, which is more advanced than the rest of the country, and to easily exercise their many means of pressure in local areas. They are now going to request that the Constitutional Court annul the law voted in Mexico City.
The Mexico City legislators had the courage to institute in their city what all women deserve: the right to decide whether or not to have a child. In the face of bigots and reactionaries of every stripe, let’s hope the law voted in Mexico City is extended to the entire country and to all of Latin America, where the influence of the Catholic Church remains strong and where the rights of women aren’t recognized at all, in particular that of freely choosing whether or not to have a child.