Mexico on the Way to Make Things Right

After years of advocacy from human rights organizations and feminist groups, a bill that would make abortion legal on request for any woman in Mexico City during the first trimester of pregnancy is scheduled for a vote soon by the state legislature of Mexico City. With a population of over 8 million people, the new law will make Mexico one of the most progressive countries in Latin America regarding abortion laws. The only other countries in the region that have liberal abortion laws are Puerto Rico, Cuba and Guyana

For the moment, the situation is looking good. Although the usual suspects have begun their efforts to try to stop the law from being enacted, their efforts may be futile. The state legislature in Mexico City has a liberal majority, which is expected to vote in favor of the new law. However, it does not cease to amaze me how in the same sentence, without even taking a breath to clear their windpipes of so many lies, conservative speakers make a "defense of life" (not women's lives that's for sure) and warnings of how such a law may incite violence against doctors who perform abortions. It is revolting to see them move their misogynist machinery of repression in order to maintain a status quo of women being subjected to the humiliating and life endangering conditions of unsafe abortions.

In a ridiculous attempt to frustrate the imminent approval of the bill, the Green Party in Mexico has introduced a proposal to raise the number of years in jail for a woman who consents to an abortion or for a person who performs an abortion. I have nothing but contempt for the people who promote such an initiative. How does further punishment of women improve the situation? What obscene pleasure do they get from the pain of women who clandestinely run the risk of botched abortions? How do they protect life by throwing women in jail while at the same time opposing comprehensive sexuality education? Conservatism in Latin America seems more a perverse cult than a political position.

On the sidelines of the debate has been Mexican president Felipe Calderon. Apart from a few comments of how he is "for life" (yeah right…), he has pretty much stayed away from the fray. Although some media has hypothesized that he is trying to steer free from the red hot debate, it seems to me he is just making the wise choice of not losing any more legitimacy. After all, he won the elections very similarly to how George Bush won them the first time … that is to say, he didn't.

The Catholic Church deserves special attention. Not only have they been directly meddling with political affairs of a lay country (not that they have ever cared …), but they have even let one of their Bishops ramble how voting in favor of the law would mean "automatic excommunication." Has the canonic code changed in the past few months that he thinks this can actually happen? Or does he just have no shame in lying to catholic people in Mexico? I think the latter. Not only does the canonic code say nothing with respect to enacting abortion laws, but even for women who exercise their right to an abortion there is no such thing as "automatic excommunication." Did the Mexican Church forget to read the part where there are exceptions to excommunication, such as acting because of fear or to avoid a greater evil? Have all the paragraphs on the role of the conscience been erased lately? There is absolutely no contradiction between being a good catholic and supporting a law that saves women's lives and dignity.

However, this is a time of rejoicing for those of us who believe in women's rights, which include the right to a safe abortion. Even if the bill is rejected, feminist and progressive organizations in Mexico have succeeded in putting the abortion debate on the frontlines, and by that they have started a process that is unstoppable. Under oppression, against repression and even when there seems to be no possibility of moving forward, people break through to claim their inalienable rights.

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  • invalid-0

    Your critique of “pro-life” hypocritical double speak is wholly on target. It is critical that those of us who recognize the value of the lives of WOMEN and their right to autonomy over their own bodies refuse to allow these dogmatic zealots to hijack the moral high ground in the abortion debate. And yes, sadly, albeit not surprisingly, the Church has conveniently forgotten so many of its own teachings. How long until this tide of reasonable public health policy reaches Chile?

  • moises-russo

    Well Jaqueline, as I wrote in a previous blog, the only attempt in the past few years to talk about abortion was stopped even before debate could start. Is there any reason to expect things will be better in the future? I think yes. Even against tremendous opposition of the right, our President Michele Bachelet has moved forward with a justice driven health policy that will make emergency contraception freely available to everyone who requires it.

    Although Emergency Contraception has nothing to do with abortion, it does prove that there is movement towards more progressive policies that respect people's right to choose. It is not a tide, but a trickle can also mean healthier lives for millions of people.

    And by the way….."hijack the moral high ground" is a beautiful way of putting this dogmatic imposition of values…