MEXICO: States Tighten Already Restrictive Abortion Laws

Published on IPS, by Emilio Godoy, Aug. 17, 2009.

MEXICO CITY, Aug 17 (IPS) – Alejandra Gómez is facing prosecution in the southern Mexican state of Puebla for having an abortion. The 20-year-old’s case is symptomatic of a wave of anti-abortion legal reforms adopted by a number of states in this country.

The reforms are seen by activists as a backlash against the April 2007 legalisation of first-trimester abortion in Mexico City.

Except in the federal district, abortion is illegal in Mexico, although the 31 states all make exceptions on varying grounds, such as for victims of rape or in cases in which the mother’s life or health is at risk or there are serious fetal deformities.  

However, even women entitled to legal abortions often find it extremely difficult if not impossible to obtain one in practice, due to an endless series of administrative and legal hurdles, according to a 2006 Human Rights Watch report titled “The Second Assault: Obstructing Access to Legal Abortion after Rape in Mexico”.

And since abortion was decriminalised in Mexico City, legal reforms have been introduced in a number of states aimed at making it even more difficult for women to get an abortion and leading to an increase in the prosecution of women who interrupt their pregnancies …

… Activists are especially concerned about the situation in the central state of Guanajuato, where 130 women have been prosecuted and sentenced for having abortions between 2000 and 2008. In that state, abortion is punishable by six months to three years in prison.

In this country of over 107 million people, an estimated 880,000 abortions are carried out annually, according to a study presented in 2008 by the Colegio de México, the Mexico office of the Population Council and the Guttmacher Institute in the United States.

The study found that an average of 33 abortions a year are performed for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 – higher than the average reported for developing countries, which is 29 abortions a year per 1,000 women of reproductive age.

Díaz said the plan is to get groups of women to ask the IACHR to assess the anti-abortion legal reforms in each state where they are adopted. END/2009. (full text).

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