objective of this paper will be to do a brief historical overview of abortion,
and to analyze the stand taken by Mexican presidential candidates in the
July 2, 2006 election, the role of the Catholic church, the morality of
abortion, in particular pro-life and pro-choice arguments for abortion,
and finally compare the different Mexican states and some Latin American
country's laws regarding abortion.
II. Historical overview:
The abortion issue is not a modern
phenomenon, abortions have taken place for centuries and throughout different
cultures. Women have always assisted other women in childbearing and in
terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Until the late 1800's, women healers
in Western Europe and the United States provided abortions and trained
other women to do so, without legal prohibitions. (1) Countries did not
began to prohibit the practice of abortions until the 19th century, the
church did not sanction its practice either.
first country to pass abortion laws was Britain in 1803. After the passage
of these first set of abortion laws, stricter rules followed. The United
Stated followed Britains example when each U.S. state passed laws banning
this practice. By 1880, most abortions were illegal in the United Sates
except for those that were necessary to save the life of the woman.(2)
With the passage of strict abortions laws, the practice continued openly
and publicly. Many jurists refused to convict medical practitioners who
became a criminal act and a sin due to various factors, on one side of
the issue you have control-prohibiting women to seek an abortion meant
controlling and restricting women to their traditional roles of child-bearing.
Women were also prohibited from seeking abortions because the procedures
were considered "dangerous" and the methods crude, there were
few antiseptics to prevent the after effects of "back-ally abortions,"
as illegal abortions were known, and the high mortality rate that resulted
from the abortions.
role in prohibiting abortions centered around controlling the medical
profession. They felt that midwives were actively attending births and
abortions as part of their regular practice, which threatened their economic
stability and social power.
factor for U.S. laws restricting abortions was the declined birth rate
within the white population in the late 1800's, the U.S. government warned
against "race suicide" as abortion was labeled by the government
in hopes of discouraging the practice from both sides, the practitioner
and the pregnant women. The government actively encouraged white women
the number of abortions performed in the 1800's as compared to today was
much higher, making the procedure illegal did not discourage the seeker
from obtaining an abortion through a legal or clandestine manner. In the
1800's there were approximately 2 millions abortions performed each year
in the U.S. compared to half a million today. Back alley abortions and
the coat hanger became a symbol of the desperation of millions of women
who have risked death to end a pregnancy.(3)
in the mid-nineteenth century, feminists, progressive birth control advocates
and socialists advocated women's right to reproductive choices as a basis
for women's personal and political emancipation, but in the same historical
context, conservative eugenicist and hygienist groups advocated fertility
control among the poor and disabled, as a way to 'perfecting' society.(4)
A). Worldwide facts on abortion:
Unsafe abortion is a major cause of
death and health complications for women of child-bearing age. Whether
or not an abortion is safe is determined in part by the legal status and
restrictions, but also by medical practice, administrative requirements,
the availability of trained practitioners, and facilities, and public
20 million unsafe abortions are performed annually. This equals one unsafe
abortion for every ten pregnancies and one unsafe abortion for every seven
* Ninety percent of unsafe abortions are in developed countries.
* One-third of all abortions worldwide are illegal. More than two- thirds
of countries in the Southern Hemisphere have no access to safe, legal
* Estimates of the number of women who die worldwide from unsafe abortions
each year range from 70,000 to 200,000. This means that between 13 and
20 percent of all maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortion-in some areas
of the world, half of all maternal deaths. Of these deaths, 99 percent
are in the developing world, and most are preventable.
* Half of all abortions take place outside the health care system.
* One-third of women seeking care for abortion complications are under
the age of 20.
* About 40 percent of the world's population has access to legal abortion
(almost all in Europe, the former Soviet Union, and North America), although
laws often require the consent of parents, state committees, or physicians.
* Worldwide, 21 percent of women may obtain a legal abortion for social
or economic reasons.
* Sixteen percent of women have access only when a woman's health is at
risk or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal defects.
* Five percent have access only in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.
* Eighteen percent have access only for life endangerment.(5)
Abortion in Mexico:
Abortion has been a crime in Mexico
since 1931. The initial federal law, still on the books today, makes abortion
punishable with one to three years of imprisonment when carried out with
the pregnant women's consent and three to six years when carrier out without
consent. Both women and abortion practitioners can be prosecuted for this
crime (the lengthier sentence is for the practitioner who performs the
procedure without the pregnant woman's consent-Parenthesis added). The
1931 penal code waives all criminal penalties for abortion after rape
where the pregnant women's life would be endangered by a continued pregnancy
or where the abortion is the result of negligent behavior on the part
of the pregnant woman.(6) Negligent behavior, while legally imprecise,
is generally thought to cover, for example, carrying out strenuous physical
activities in order to provoke a miscarriage.
of the federal structure of government in Mexico, the federal penal code
regarding abortion is basically irrelevant in every state of the republic.
However, the 1931 penal code has been used as a model by various states
in Mexico. As of 2006, every state criminalizes abortion both for the
practitioner and the women who procures an abortion. In eleven states,
as well as in the federal penal code, the sentence is substantially lower
when the women who aborted "does not have a bad reputation,"
when the pregnancy was the result of a sexual relationship outside of
the marriage, and when the women had managed to keep the pregnancy a secret.(7)
is obvious from the terminology of the penal statutes regarding abortion
that these statutes were written by men to protect men. Why would the
Mexican government decriminalize aspects of the abortion law for someone
who is having extramarital affairs and not for someone who is the victim
of rape or incest? To protect the family unit? If some one is having an
extramarital affair, it is because the family unit no longer works and
decriminalizing the act is not going to do anything to better the situation.
Decriminalization of abortion should include all the usual safeguards
for the women, her health and the desire not to go through with the pregnancy
for whatever reason.
states waive penalties for abortion in at least one circumstance: where
the pregnancy is the result of rape. Other reasons for waiving the penalty
* the abortion is the result of negligent behavior on the part of the
pregnant women (valid in 29 states);
* to save the life of the pregnant women (valid in 27 states);
* the fetus has serious malformations (valid in 13 states);
* to protect the heath of the pregnant women (valid in 10 states);
* the pregnancy is the result of non-consensual artificial insemination
(valid in 11 states); and
* where the women already has three children, for economic reasons (valid
only in Yucatan).(8)
fact that these exceptions to the law are on paper in Mexico does nothing
for the victim of sexual assaults because the police, prosecutors, medical
personal and religious groups who should be assisting the victims, are
more of an obstacle and deterrent then a benefit, making the exercise
of these rights almost impossible. Therefore, seeking a clandestine abortion
is a more viable option to most women and girls.
on sexual violence against women and girls in Mexico run counter to international
human rights standards, notably by defining sanctions for some sexual
offenses with reference to "chastity" of the victim. Most states
criminalize three types of sexual intercourse: rape (and statutory rape),
incest, and "esturpo"(intercourse with an adolescent girl through
seduction or deceit, as opposed to force). In thirteen states, "esturpo"
is only a crime when the underage victim is known to live "chastely"
or "honestly," and in at least eleven states "esturpo"
is not penalized if the perpetrator subsequently marries the underage
victim. "Incest," on the other hand, is typically not considered
a crime against the physical or sexual integrity of the victim, but rather
against the family, and generally defined as "consensual" sex
between parents and children or between siblings. Because of the nature
of this legal definition of this crime, both the parent and the child
are subject to criminal prosecution for incest.(9) only underage victims
can escape criminal prosecution for violating the family unit. Underage
is a vague term in Mexico because it can range from puberty to 15 years
of age depending on the domicile of the perpetrator and victim.
victims of incest or esturpo are denied access to a legal abortions because
of the nature of the legal definitions with incest being "consensual
sex" and esturpo. If the girl has a "bad reputation" or
marries her assailant, there is no crime. Abortion is not legally granted
in Mexico if either of the two situations exist. The term "this is
my baby brother" carries different meaning in Mexico. Many girls
who are raped by their fathers are forced to carry the child to term,
so their baby is their baby and their brother as well.
is estimated that approximately 120-130,000 women and girls are raped
in Mexico annually. Only a fraction of these rapes are reported to the
authorities, and even fewer responsible for this crime are held accountable.
Mexico's domestic and sexual violence against women is rooted in policy
flaws created on state and federal levels: under reporting and underestimating
the actual number of violent acts against women, and the inadequate, male
dominated legal framework for prevention, protection, and punishment,
and lax implementation of existing legal standards (10) add to assault
on women's basic human rights.
A). Under reporting:
Under reporting takes place in many
levels. Women (when referring to women, I also refer to girls as a large
portion of the statistics complied were gathered from under aged girls)
usually do not report rape, incest, even martial rape to authorities or
their families because of fear, shame, unavailability of legal, moral
and financial support.
of authorities is common in Mexico. Abortion is illegal and about 74 percent
of women in Mexico do not know that they can get a legal abortion paid
by the state in case of rape and insect, due to this fear the crime goes
unreported. When it is reported, the victims are made to feel as if they
deserved it, encouraged it or were looking for it. When reporting rape
to police authorities, the fist questions asked are: What were you wearing?
Its your fault, you shouldn't dress so provocatively? What were you doing
out so late, and questions of that nature. Blaming the victim for their
unfortunate experience. This alone discourages many women from reporting
the crime in the first place, plus the fact that you must bribe each administrator
as the report makes it up the ladder if you want your report to get some
attention. This form of retribution is designed to discourage this type
of crimes from being reported.
reporting it will bring shame to the family. This is an old macho tradition
that makes women an object, a trophy and no one wants a damaged object.
reporting a rape cost money, an average of $ 100.00 pesos to file such
a report in most states, not to mention bribes to the local police, administrative
staff and everyone down the line. If you want your report to go a step
further, you must grease each hand as the report makes it up the ladder.
Most women and girls do not have this kind of financial freedom. It is
either continue paying bribes to see the report progress or feed your
family. When children are the victims, the father, an uncle or a brother
is usually the perpetrator, so it does not make sense to continue with
the case and bring more shame to the family. Once incest cases are reported,
police encourage girls not to continue with the report. They are made
to feel indifferent, ashamed and guilty. Who will take care of the family
if the your father goes to jail are questions and suggestions given to
such girls. Furthermore, in case of insect, both perpetrator and victim
can be punished because the act is defined as voluntary forms of sexual
intercourse, and if the charge is incest, there is no legal protection
for the child to seek an abortion, unless the child is under age which
can vary from state to state. Since the assault is not seen as severe,
it goes unpunished and if punished it is a lighter sentence if any.
under reporting takes place for many reasons, if the bribe is not paid,
the incident is not recorded. If its not recorded, it didn't happen and
if it didn't happen, the crime rate is low so there is no need to modify
something that rarely happens.
B). Prosecuting for abortion, but not the rapist:
Mexican officials do not keep adequate
records of women who are prosecuted for seeking an abortion, women interviewed
by Human Rights Watch seem to be in agreement that when it comes to prosecuting
them, the judicial system seems to be swift. If the Mexican government
in each independent state was to put as much effort into prosecuting the
rapist, as they do to prosecute the women who seek an abortion after they
have been raped perhaps this particular crime would diminish.
Blanca Diaz, a twenty-nine-year-old
from Yucatan, attempted to file a complaint against her husband to domestic
violence. She was all black and blue from the abuse and the prosecutor
told her that there was not enough evidence to prosecute, took a report
and did nothing more. A year later, this same women goes to the hospital
because of hemorrhaging, the hospital reported her to the prosecutors
office for an alleged attempted home abortion. Without any proof of attempting
to abort her unborn child, the prosecutors office sent an investigator
to the hospital to interrogate Diaz while she was still under medication,
questioned her for hours, then transported her to the prosecutors office
and continued the questioning for another 10 hours. While the interrogation
was taking place, her home was being inspected by investigators looking
for proof of an abortion.11
the local, state and federal governments would spent one tenth of the
efforts investigating rapes as they do investigating alleged self inflicted
abortions, there would be less attempted abortions by women who are victimized
by men and the authorities. Men do not fear the law in Mexico, they know
that the crime will most likely not be reported. If it is reported, the
authorities will not do anything about it, unless the individual filing
the report has some wealth to finance the investigation and prosecution
of the crime. The laws as they exist, encourage rape, incest and crimes
against women rather then the opposite.
Mexican states do not have clear guidelines
to implement when a women seeks an abortion, and in most cases the prosecutors,
medical practitioners and police do not know what to do or say, so they
invent excuses not to deal with the problem. In most cases they tell the
rape victims that it is immoral to kill a fetus, or that the procedures
are dangerous and that they, the medical practitioners will not take the
risk. In some cases victims are told to bring a hearse and a coffin to
burry the baby because the hospital or medical facility does not dispose
of dead bodies. They provide non-existent or inaccurate information in
an attempt to discourage the abortion from taking place.
C). Counseling for the victim after rape
Proper counseling is almost non-existent,
if not for the non-profit and NGO's operating in Mexico, most women would
not know that there are other options besides having the child and caring
for it or turning it over for adoption. In most instances, victims of
rape must know how to request an abortion as prescribed by law. They must
know which penal code applies to their situation and how to apply it.
In other words, how to demand the services guaranteed by law. If the proper
request is not made, the prosecutors office will not advise the victim.
The prosecutors feel that it's not their job to advise in the commission
of a crime, they feel that they should not be part of a moral issue. Victims
are often told to merry the perpetrator in an effort to discourage abortions
and to avoid prosecution. The only rape cases that get attention in the
prosecutors office are the ones that are accompanies by NGO's, Heath Watch
volunteers or members of other women's support groups. Why is the prosecutors
office involved? Because they are the only ones that can authorize the
issuance of an abortion, and they only authorize such procedures once
an investigation reveals that the pregnancy resulted as the pregnant victim
claims it did.
D. Conscientious objectors:
The problem for women seeking legal
abortions in Mexico does not end with the state granting the procedure.
Once the prosecutors office has placed the victim through an obstacle
course of filing a police report, getting an evaluation from two medical
practitioners and seeking the advice of social workers, the fight has
just begun. Getting a medical doctor to perform the abortion is another
problem. Because of stigma associated with abortions in Mexico, most doctors
refuse to perform the abortion under conscientious objection grounds.
Stating they will not be part of an immoral act. Even when all legal requirements
have been met, some doctors opt out in some cases because of harassment
from hospital workers. The doctors who do perform the procedure are called
"baby killers" pictures of dead babies are placed in their office,
blood is splattered in their work site and the harassment continues outside
the workplace if encountered in public.
most cases, it is much easier to go to a clandestine medical facility
and seek an illegal abortion then to have to go through these legal hoops
to get a legal abortion paid by the state. The risk taken at clandestine
facilities is much less then the harassment received in the entire process
going the legal route.
IV. The role of the church on abortion:
The role of the Catholic church in
Mexico and the abortion issues is more complex then abortion itself. To
understand the church's role, one must realize that historically there
has been a divide between church and state in Mexico. The separation of
church and state was established by the "Reforma" of the late
1850's and reinforced by the 1917 revolutionary constitution. There has
been a strong division between church and state when it comes to education,
the church's civil status and the role in Mexican life, and to some extent,
states authority. Educating the masses on childbearing, contraception
and pregnancy prevention are issues that the church strongly opposes,
including the use and dissemination of condoms in the AIDS era.
Roman Catholic manisterium uses the philosophical principle of "double
effect" to determine the only conditions under which abortion may
be found acceptable. "Double effect" is a carefully reasoned,
precise argument that enables one to judge, in situations where one action
will have both good and bad effects, where committing the action constitutes
a sin...currently, the manisterium finds only two types of abortive procedures
morally acceptable under the dictates of double effect: the case of a
pregnant women with a cancerous uterus (the fetus is then removed along
with the uterus) and the case of ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus
is lodged in a fallopian tube (the fallopian tube is then removed).(12)
To understand the lengths that the
catholic church is willing to go to impose their views on the rest of
society, one must understand how the church has created allies with many
other religious sectors throughout the world and what it contributes to
their organizations and political groups. An investigation into the murder
of Pope John Paul I, submits substantial evidence that Pope John Paul
I was killed by threatened insiders as he prepared to vastly alter the
birth control position and the financial organization of the church.(13)
the church has also implemented a worldwide plan to combat issues of abortion,
family planning and education on sexual behavior and contraception use
through the "Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities."(14) In
this plan the church has targeted certain countries and political leaders
whom they previously identify and contribute substantially to their political
campaigns and in return the church is guaranteed political leaders who
are from different denominations but with the same goal as the catholic
church in mind-that is to prevent the state from furthering liberalization
of abortion rights. The Catholic church's position appears to be out of
touch with public opinion. For example, it continues to oppose birth control,
even though most Latin American women favor the use of some form of artificial
contraception...likewise, the church considers abortion a "grave
sin," yet it is widely practiced in the region.(15)
is the church focusing its efforts on Mexico? There are approximately
I billion Catholics in the world, not all strict followers of the church
tenets, but Catholics nonetheless. Out of this billion, about 40 percent
are in Latin America. Mexico is the largest populated country in Latin
America with almost 100 million inhabitants, most of which are Catholic.
Mexico is the leading country in Latin America, whatever happens in Mexico
is followed by other Latin American countries as a model. The issue of
abortion began to appear in the public forum in the 1980'and 90's in Mexico
and in Latin America. Along with the open discussion of this taboo issue,
there has been a great influx of Protestantism proliferating in Latin
America, cutting into the Catholic church's membership and ultimately
into its profits.
A). The church and its political allies in Mexico:
Until the Church regained full legal
status and the state restored diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1992,
they have been governed by a modus vivendi whereby the state did not enforce
anti-clerical laws while the Church stayed clear of the political forum
and was expected to help keep social order. At the same time the clergy
maintained influence by developing a network of lay organizations, such
as the National Parents' Union, and implicitly supporting the PAN, the
voice of the national conservatism which has favored Church activism.(16)
Previous Mexican government administrations have accepted the legitimacy
of sexual and reproductive rights by reformulating and articulating them
as "reproductive health." But reproductive health is not respected
in Mexico-not through current legislation and not through the UN-sponsored
April 2006, Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the
PRD was the front runner, in second place was PAN's candidate Felipe Calderon.
Lopez was leading all polls up to April by 10 percentage points. Just
a month later when debates began to take place and the issue of abortion
came up, Calderon's percentage rating climbed to the top and Lopez fell
by the same percentage points that he was leading. On May 4, 2006, Calderon
stated that he strongly supports his party's anti-abortion policy and
cited Scriptures during stump speeches.(18) Just a day prior to Calderon's
speech, Lopez spoke at a meeting held by more then 100 bishops with respect
to the upcoming elections. Not surprisingly, the first question asked
by the bishops was on the issue of abortion, euthanasia, and the so-called
day after pill and the family. He said that when he is elected president
he will submit these issues to consultation because that is how they should
be addressed in a democratic nation... The Bishop of Cuernavaca, Florencio
Olivares objected stating that the natural law is first and can not be
submitted to consultation.(19)
it a coincidence that the ratings shifted from Lopez to Calderon right
about the same time that Calderon issued his support to maintain the status
quo on abortion and Lopez' meeting with the bishops. There was no reported
meeting of the Bishops with Calderon, probably because the Church already
has Calderon in their pocket and the meeting with Lopez was seen as an
opportunity to expose his anti-life stance, as the Catholic church calls
anyone who supports legalizing abortion.
V. Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups in Mexico:
The Mexican federal government started
a "Mexican Rural Health Programme" in the 1970's to curb the
growing population in Mexico. However, the programme was designed to curb
the growing population of rural Mexico (hejidos), as family planning programs
were only available in rural areas and not in the major cities. In 1973,
the Mexican government suddenly abandoned its traditional pro-nationalist
stand and decided to curb the country's rapidly growing birth rate. The
following year, it passed a Population Law which acknowledged the "right
of all Mexicans to decide on the number and spacing of their children...and
to have access to family planning services."(20) this law was later
written into the Mexican Constitution.
By 1977, Mexico had established two
rural health programs, one was called the Extended Coverage Programme,
involved in training community workers, by and under the supervision of
the "pasantes" to provide simple health car services.(21) this
program was established in small towns and urban settings where people
tend to have higher education. Family planning was not part of their services
for this section of the health program. The other program was called the
"Rural Community Programme"(22) and offered non-medical services,
only family planning and extended only to the rural areas (hejidos) in
an attempt to curb the growing indigenous population according to the
population law previously passed. When these programs were implemented
there were about 5,000 rural communities included, within a few years
about 11,000 out of the approximately 13,000 hejidos were included. The
services offered were family planning education, identification of people
who do not wish to have more children, provision of oral contraceptives,
injectable and condoms, monitoring of IUD uses and users of hormonal contraceptives,
and directing to the clinic for sterilization.(23) Health care programs
in urban settings were more equipped to handle real health problems such
as treatment and prescriptions for ailments.
programs had a short life, once the Church got some legitimacy back and
reconciled its differences with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari,
they became very involved and sent their own agencies to shut the rural
programs down. The Church did not loose any time in using its renewed
legitimacy to influence the political leaders and opposed the slightest
use of contraceptive education, use and/or dissemination even with the
threat of the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Pro-choice groups have held conferences in Mexico calling an end to the
criminalization of abortion. One group is a catholic group called "Catholics
for a free choice (CFFC)" and stated that the right of women to choose,
including access to abortion, is an indispensable good for the building
of a more equitable, free and just society, to be able to exercise reproductive
power as a social good in their benefit and not as a biological accident...Maria
Van Doren, who is a sister and a spokesperson for the CFFC stated that
it is possible to give another theological explanation to these issues
in order to remove the sense of guilt from abortion, because it is not
murder and it is not true that women who accept it have no conscience.(24)
debate has begun in Mexico regarding the issue of abortion and the Catholic
church and its allies are not too happy about it. They oppose abortion
and any public debate of the matter whatsoever.
debate has been on public forums, radio programs and a one-hour television
special in which a Bishop, the president of the Pro-Vida, Deputy Health
Minister Dr. Jose Narro Robles, and representatives from the Mexican reproductive
rights group, Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elejide (GIRE).(25)
Doctors, priests from the CFFC in Mexico and many lawyers and actors support
the need for a debate.
60 groups joined forces to urge the Mexican government to pay more attention
to this issue and legalize abortion simply to save thousands of lives
each year. Some notoriously famous cosigners of this open letter to the
legislature were Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Elena Poniatiwska and Luis
Villoro... this letter to Mexico City's house of legislators in support
of revising Mexico City's penal code in relation to abortion was published
in major daily newspapers including Universal, Reforma, El Sol de Mexico,
Excelsior and many more.(26)
VI. Abortion laws in other Latin American Countries:
Given the severity of health, mental
and emotional problems that women go through after having an abortion
for an unwanted pregnancy because the pregnancy resulted from a rape,
incest or simply because the mother, whether single or married, already
has a couple of children and cannot adequately care for another, still
have to face criminal prosecution for having an abortion. If she attempts
to go the legal route, she faces obstacles, ridicule, financial strain
and no emotional support. Mexico's laws, although very backwards dictated
by Machismo, are not as bad as others from neighbors in the south. In
Mexico, one can always bribe each individual along the way and get whatever
you want if you have the money. Sometimes connections will do the trick,
as long as you know someone that knows someone else, things can get done.
However in Central and South America it may be harder to do so.
the exception of Cuba, Guyana and Puerto Rico, where abortion is available
on demand, abortion is legally penalized in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In most of these countries, however, there are certain extenuating circumstances
under which a woman may be legally permitted an abortion.(27)
El Salvador abortion is a serious felony for everyone involved, including
the women who has the abortion. Some young women are now serving prison
sentences, a few as long as 30 years. In this new movement toward criminalization,
El Salvador is the vanguard. The array of exceptions that tend to exist
even in countries where abortion is circumscribed-rape, incest, fetal
malformation, life of the mother-don't apply in El Salvador.(28) This
new law on abortion was instituted in1997 after the civil war ended. The
country's penal code was revamped and its constitution was amended. Abortion
is now forbidden in every possible circumstance. No exceptions. A new
Archbishop, Fernando Saenz, was appointed in 1995 by Pope John Paul II
in 1995. Archbishop Saenz was a strong and active campaigner for this
recently approved exceptions to its ban in cases of rape and where women's
health is imperiled by continuing a pregnancy,(29) but say nothing with
respect to incest.
the case of Chile, where abortion has been illegal in all circumstances
since 1986. however, women still seek clandestine abortions despite its
dangerous and unsafe conditions these abortions pose on the women seeking
them. Chile's first female president, Nichelle Bachelette, is implementing
an ambitious set of social programs that include fattening women's pension
and expanding free universal child care,(30) but say nothing with respect
to legalizing abortion or even relaxing the laws with respect to the most
sever cases of rape and incest.
Peru, the penal codes of this country subject women to criminal penalties
even when the pregnancy is the result of rape...clandestine abortions
continue to be the main cause of maternal mortality in Peru. In a country
of 27 million with approximately 400,000 illegal abortions a year-one
of the highest rates in Latin America-and behind Bolivia.(31)
on the other hand has stricter regulations regarding abortion then Mexico.
The restrictions were not noted in the research, but only stated that
they were stricter.
laws permit certain abortions, but only when the state permits them after
a review by a medical and political board.(32) However, medical professionals
are deterred by the criminal penalties from performing these abortions
even when permitted to do so. Leaving the pregnant women to opt for a
clandestine, unsafe abortion.
campaign to decriminalize abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean
began in 1990. Women's groups, CFFC, GIRE and CIDEM in Bolivia and many
more have all joined to legalize abortion. Their work began at a meeting
of Latin American Feminist in response to a workshop on abortion and the
need for permanent monitoring of the issue. The campaign is also known
as the September 28th Campaign; chosen in commemoration of the abolition
of slavery in Brazil, this important date is also known as "Free
Womb Day."(33) their goal is to achieve the decriminalization and
legalization of abortion in these regions.
lessons can be learned from Latin America with respect to abortion: outlawing
abortions does not stop women from having them. Who cares if the procedure
is legal or illegal, if a woman wants one for whatever reason, she is
going to find the means to get it despite its legalities. Affluent women
suffered fewer traumatic ordeals often traveling to the U.S. for the procedure
(34) or sneaking off to upscale private Latin American clinics where,
on paper, they had surgery for appendicitis.(35) Providing limited exceptions
to an abortion ban does little to improve access to safe abortions.
An unwanted pregnancy is sufficient
cause for mental and physical manifestations of emotional distress and
instability. The fact the pregnancy resulted from a rape, incest or marital
rape demeans the victim's physical and emotional integrity and is something
these women and girls will carry for the remainder of their lives. The
stigma associated with having a child out of wedlock is still a major
taboo in Mexico, especially when the child is from the father, uncle or
brother of the victim. Mexico's laws have done nothing to end this violence
against women. Its laws are extremely backwards and outdated, and the
few laws that exist are supposed to help women in these situations, have
more obstacles then passages to get to the desired end. Mexico has ignored
International human rights organizations and United Nations treaty bodies
that have repeatedly emphasize that Mexico should have access to safe
and legal abortions after rape, procedures that will guarantee a women's
safety and integrity. The Catholic church and its political allies will
not change the was abortion is handled in Mexico until there is true and
complete separation of church and state.
1. Feminism.com, History of abortion, April 2006
4. Correa, Sonia, Population and reproduction rights: feminist perspectives
from the south, p. 11
5. The Boston women's health book, Simon and Schuster, 1998
6. Codigo penal Federal, publicado en el Diario Oficial de la Federacion
el 14 de Agosto de 1931
7. Human Rights Watch, The Second Assault, obstructing access to legal
abortion after rape in Mexico, p.31
8. Ibid, p. 31
9. Ibid, p. 17
10. Ibid, p. 9
11. Ibid, p. 32
12. Rudy, Kathy, Beyond pro-life and pro-choice-moral diversity in the
abortion debate, pp. 23-24
13. Yallop, David, In God's name: an investigation into the murder of
Pope John Paul I, p. 24
14. Kuleczycki, Andrzej, The abortion debate in the world arena, p. 93
15. Carol, Tracy, Calderon hits stride in Mexico elections
16. Lamas, Martha, Scenes from a Mexican battlefield, NACLA
17. Franco, Jean, The gender wars, NACLA
18. Ertlet, Steven, "Mexico presidential candidate wants to keep
pro-life laws on abortion"
19. Sepro News, Lopez Obrador, a candidate on the left of the Mexican
political spectrum, told more then 100 bishops that he will respect the
winner of the upcoming July 4 [sic] elections
20. On, Margaret, Community action for family planning, p. 111
21. Ibid, p. 111
22. Ibid p. 111
23. Ibid, p. 112
24. Catholic News Agency, Pseudo-Catholic says right to abortion 'essential
25. Consentric Media, Abortion rights controversy in Mexico
28. Rayas, Lucia, Crminializing abortion: a crime against women, NACLA
29. Hitt, Jack, El Salvador: Pro-life nation, International Herald Tribune,
April 9, 2006
30. Ross, Jen, Peru campaign quiet on the reproductive issues
32. Heath Rights Watch, p. 84
33. Consentric Media, The campaign for the decriminalization and legalization
of abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean
34. Mumford, Stephen D., The Pope and the Apocalypse, the holy war against
35. Proquest, Mexican women crossing border for safer abortions
36. Consentric Media
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