The MARIA Fund: Supporting Women’s Access to Abortion in Mexico


Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 marks the fifth anniversary of legal first trimester abortion in Mexico City. On April 24, 2007, the Mexico City Legislature voted to decriminalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court of Mexico upheld the law in 2008.

Because Mexico City is the third largest city in the world, this policy change benefits hundreds of thousands of women with access to free, legal abortion services. The policy also lays bare a need among women in other parts of the country to travel to the capital to obtain safe and legal abortion care.

This is where the MARIA Fund comes in.

The MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice provides direct assistance to women in Mexico who cannot afford a legal abortion. The Fund pays for a range of services, from abortion care itself to travel and lodging, as well as transportation costs for women traveling within Mexico City to reach a provider. The Fund helps to arrange appointments and will accompany women if they wish. The Fund also works with other non-governmental organizations to provide women with spiritual and psychological support.

The MARIA Fund is a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds and a project of Balance AC, a feminist organization in Mexico. It aims to increase awareness of women’s right to legal abortion and strengthen solidarity among people who support women’s rights in addition to providing direct services.

The MARIA Fund has assisted 1,200 women since launching in May 2009.

Abortion Politics in Mexico

In Mexico, as in all countries where abortion is illegal, women with resources often find a way to terminate their pregnancies safely and women without resources take risks with their lives in order to carry out their decision.

“What we want is not one more death, not here, not anywhere,” explained Leticia Quezada, a member of the Democratic Revolution Party, in her speech in favor of abortion rights. Mexico has 31 states and abortion is illegal in every one of them. Supporters of the decriminalization law in Mexico City hoped that it would inspire similar changes in other jurisdictions, but this has not happened.

Politics and stigma have turned hospitals into extensions of the police instead of refuges for confidential medical care. “Women go to the hospital for many reasons, not only because they get scared, they can have some of the warning signs and go, or they don’t know what to expect, but they should get the attention they need as if it was a miscarriage. Women have been jailed for miscarriages, and the stigmatization of abortion is so intense that medical staff are reporting women even before treating them and they threaten them until they confess that they used miso,” explains Oriana López Uribe, manager of the MARIA Fund. Instead, authorities in some states are now actively prosecuting cases of illegal abortion, which often come to their attention when women go the hospital. Almost 150,000 women were hospitalized for complications following an abortion in 2006, according to estimates by the Guttmacher Institute; this represents a hospitalization rate of about 17 percent.

Miso, short for Misoprostol, is used to safely induce abortions around the world. It is available in pharmacies in Mexico to treat ulcers, and is one of the means women use to give themselves an abortion because medical professionals do not provide this care.

In fact, it is difficult to find safe legal abortion services even in those circumstances where the law permits abortion, such as when a girl or woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape. The MARIA Fund collaborates with other organizations to help women report sexual assaults and try to obtain a legal abortion in their home state if that is what they want to do.

The MARIA Fund works to level the playing field by helping women who live under harsh restrictions obtain legal medical care. Given the stark differences in access to safe abortion throughout the country and the serious risks of illegal abortion, the need for the MARIA Fund is clear.

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