By Samantha Mc Lane Alejos
Hearing Senator Lautenberg describing the proposal of the HR 3 bill “like a third-world country that’s requiring women to wear head shawls, cover their faces even if they don’t want to do it”, made me react and ponder that we don’t have to go so far as the Middle East just look down of the border toward Mexico. Women are not required to cover their faces, but they are required to refrain from making decisions about their reproductive health.
Unfortunately the similarities between Mexico and the U.S. today are as close as they might ever be. Women’s rights are under attack. Yes, attack because the House is bombarding with legislation with bills that uphold foremost the imposition of their own moral perspective.
The battleground that Mexicanas have endured in recent years is not new; as a result there are draconian laws and policies against their human rights. We learned of the unjust imprisonment that seven women in Guanajuato lived because they had abortions and were considered as murderers.
Maybe some might have thought that those people in Mexico were just very unfortunate. Or maybe some may have started to perceive similarities here in your own backyard, in the United States. The same process happened in some regions in Mexico. While its national capital has achieved a great historic milestone by decriminalizing abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation, the rest of the country has been struggling to gain back the respect of reproductive rights. The benefits of providing safe and legal abortions is part of a committed global agenda to ensure the delivery of reproductive and sexual health services that include access to birth control methods, maternal health, treatment of sexual transmitted diseases , accurate sexual education and family planning. But conservative ideologies don’t regard it as this. By focusing on the elimination of the right to choose to continue or not a pregnancy, they are denying access to basic health rights that women need.
In the past two years, Sixteen States in Mexico have reformed the local constitutions to protect human life from conception. To pinpoint one example, on March 2009 the local Congress of the state of Guanajuato reformed the first article of its state’s constitution to state the following: “…For the effects of this Constitution and of the laws that emerge from it, person is all human being from its conception to its natural death. The State grants her/him* full joy and exercise of all his/her* rights” (translated).
Clearly, this measure has been seen as a response to prevent the influence of progressive reforms as in Mexico City, one that recognizes the need to allow legal abortion.
Despite the response of several groups and individuals against these reforms, the legal reality in Mexico is that women and girls are unprotected in the meantime. An atmosphere of fear and impotency is real. Mexican women have restrained themselves from seeking health services because they worry that if they learn at the medical appointment they are pregnant, their situation is not confidential. Furthermore, if the woman decides to seek an abortion, she can’t rest assured that the health provider will not provide her pregnancy status to authorities.
Could you imagine this in the United States? After the mid-term elections on November 2010, a rise of conservative forces in power has become reality. Just two months after the beginning of the new Legislative House, H.R. 3, H.R. 358 and H.R.217 have been introduced to defund organizations and institutions that provide reproductive health and abortion services and deny total health coverage for abortion. Also several states are working to reform local and state laws to protect human life since its conception. These provisions will affect several organizations that have been supporting women for many years; such is the case of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is an institution respected and recognized by millions of women who have found in it a place to receive health services, counseling and support. And this is why, unfairly, it has become one of the main targets of these bills.
Even though, the likelihood of the U.S. of becoming a “third world country”, paraphrasing Sen. Lautenberg (although “third world” is a debatable concept in my point of view), is very tangible, I perceive a very big difference: the power of the people’s voice. I have always been encouraged by the fact that American people have civic empowerment that many other nations’ citizens lack. To ensure this empowerment for future generations, this is the part of this article where I ask you to embody the real spirit of democracy that the United States fiercely defends. You have a vote in Congress. You can denounce this unjust attack to women and society in general.
These bills, HR 3 and HR 358 will be voted soon in the House of Representatives. It is predicted that the republican majority will vote and pass. Then both will go to the Senate. In this instance you can act. Please visit the Stand with Planned Parenthood site and stay connected to their website for action alerts and other ways to get involved in this just cause for women’s rights in the United States.
By no means is this call to action an urge to minimize third world challenges but in order to one day make progress in Mexico and other countries, today we have to send the message that American women, their colleagues and partners demand respect and dignity for their right to choose and decide for themselves.