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Abortion is sharp divide in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (BP)–The federal government of Mexico and pro-life groups have filed a lawsuit suit challenging the constitutionality of abortion legislation passed by Mexico City’s legislative assembly which allows abortion anytime during the first trimester. Previously, federal statutes permitted abortions only when a mother’s health was at risk, or in the case of rape, or when the unborn baby bore physical defects.

Opponents to the new law say the change is unconstitutional because such legislation is reserved for the Mexican National Congress, and not for an individual city’s legislators.

Mexico’s Supreme Court asked Justice Sergio Salvador Aguirre to develop the legal opinion on the constitutionality of the abortion law. Aguirre believes the federal government’s case is strong.

In preparing the case, Aguirre assembled a team of renowned scientists and researchers and asked them a myriad of questions about when life begins and whether the unborn child can be considered a human being under law.

Analysts say Aguirre asked the panel whether paralytics who are unable to feed themselves, autistic people and those with amputated feet and arms are human.

The analysts think Aguirre’s questions illustrate that human dignity does not depend on health, age, dependent status, or the state of one’s mental or physical capacities, but is above all these circumstances and deserves absolute respect and protection.

Modifications to Mexico City’s abortion law were proposed by left-leaning political parties: the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and the Democratic Revolution Party that governs the Mexico City. The National Action Party opposed the changes.

Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, member of the National Action Party, opposed the legalization.

Prior to passing the new abortion law, Mexico City legislators have pushed for a euthanasia law and have legalized homosexual civil unions in the capital city.

The abortion measure spread outrage across Mexico — whose populace is 70 percent against the change — because legislators in Mexico City have apparently usurped Mexico’s constitution which affords legal protection for unborn children and says they have a right to life that can’t be abrogated “from conception until its natural end.”

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the Mexican constitution protects human life “from conception.” However, all 32 states in Mexico permit abortion if pregnancy occurs from rape, 27 states permit abortion if the mother’s life is at risk, 13 if the unborn baby is deformed, and 10 when the mother’s health is at risk.

A study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico estimates there are a half-million to 1 million illegal abortions a year. Abortion rights activists claim such abortions result in death for thousands of poor women, often under gruesome circumstances. Mexico City legislators hope the law will decrease the number of deaths.

Illegal abortions are “a reality that we cannot continue to hide when it’s an issue of public health,” said Mexico City legislator Jorge Carlos Díaz Cuervo, a key supporter of the abortion bill.

The official death toll from illegal abortions during the last decade is 1,500. But Cuervo said that figure is likely to be much higher since doctors or victims don’t report their illegal activities.

Pro-lifers in Mexico say that killing unborn children to save an unknown number of women who die during the illegal procedure is an inequitable trade-off.

Alejandra Garrido, a member of the pro-life group Young Citizens for Dignity, said in a Dallas Morning News article: “We are against abortion because we believe the right to life is a fundamental human right.”

Young Citizens for Dignity distributed fliers that compared Mexico’s strict environmental laws with the capital’s plan to legalize abortion during the first trimester: “Turtle eggs are protected by law,” read the flier, that depicted the eggs in one human hand and an infant in the other. “Now, unborn children won’t be.”

“Young women are going to come here to get abortions, which is logical, and then more and more states are going to consider something similar,” said Garrido.

Opponents to the law say the legislation is part of a plan, not just here in Mexico City, but worldwide, alleging that the World Health Organization and the UN wants abortion accepted around the world.

Garrido agrees, saying the Mexico City law will signal other Latin American countries to follow suit.


Because of Mexico City’s cultural influences, some observers think legislators and pro-abortion advocates in other Latin America countries will push for more lax abortion laws. In many Latin American countries that have legalized abortions, almost all of them restrict the procedure to the first trimester. And in many of them where abortion is restricted to varying degrees, the abortive “morning after” pill is available.


This is the latest battleground for abortion rights, where a coalition of several pro-abortion groups wants legalized abortions for women whose lives may be at risk, and also for rape victims, and for women whose unborn children have physical defects. Currently, abortion is illegal under any circumstance, and punishable by up to six years in prison. In all Latin American countries where abortion is either illegal or highly restricted, violation of local abortion laws carries punishments of from six months to 10 years in jail.


In 2006, Colombian authorities changed abortion laws that previously outlawed the procedure to allow it in cases to save the mother’s life, of rape, or where the unborn baby is physically deformed.


Abortion is allowed only for the physical health of the mother and for rape victims. According to Julieta Montaño, a representative of the Committee of Latin America and the Caribbean for the Defense of the Rights of Woman (CLADEM) in Bolivia, pro-abortion groups have lobbied legislators for more than a decade for more lax abortion laws, but the initiatives have been rejected.


Abortion is legal only to preserve the life of the mother or for rape victims. Pro-abortionists have had no success in pushing for more lax laws as “there is much resistance to legalize it” because of the moral convictions of the citizenry, said Mayra Dinora Gila Herrera, local representative of CLADEM.


A 1989 law outlawed all abortions, whereas previously, the life of the mother exception was allowed. In September 2006, President Michelle Bachelet authorized government distribution of the abortive morning-after contraception pill to women age 14 and older. Underage teens are not required to have parental permission to obtain the pill.


Abortion is permitted only to save a mother’s life. However, the abortive “morning after” pill is permitted. In 2005, some political supporters of President Hugo Chavez unsuccessfully lobbied for the legalization of abortion in cases of rape or incest.


Legal abortion is available only in cases involving rape or when a woman’s life is in danger. Research shows 65 percent of Brazilians support the current laws.


Unlike Mexico City, legislators in El Salvador revised that country’s abortion laws in 1998. Previously, abortion was legal for rape and for unborn babies with deformity. Since the 1998 revision, abortion it completely illegal and is punishable by two to eight years in prison.


Like El Salvador, Nicaragua revised its abortion laws. Since 1893, Nicaraguan law allowed abortion only when a woman’s health was in danger. But in 2006, law makers ruled abortion illegal in all circumstances.


Legal abortions include preservation of the mother’s mental/physical health, and for rape, and socio-economic reasons in the first trimester. For more than 20 years, pro-abortionists have lobbied Uruguay’s Parliament for more lax abortion laws, but repeatedly have been rejected.


Abortion is permitted only to save a mother’s life or is allowed in some rape cases. In 2002, Argentina’s Supreme Court outlawed the sale and use of the abortive “morning after” pill.


Belize permits abortion to preserve a woman’s physical and mental health, for rape victims, for socio-economic reasons, and if the unborn baby is physically deformed.


Abortion is almost totally prohibited except in extreme cases of risk to the life of the mother. However, the country’s secretary of public health permits distribution of the abortive “morning after” pill.


Abortion is permitted only to save the physical health of the mother.


Abortion is allowed to preserve a woman’s physical/mental health, for rape victims, and if the unborn baby is physical deformed.


Abortion is allowed only to save a mother’s life.


Abortion is permitted only to protect a woman’s health, for victims of rape or incest, and for women with AIDS. The abortive “morning after” pill is available.


Abortion is allowed only for the mental/physical health of the mother.


Legal abortion protects the mother’s life; however, the abortive “morning after” pill is legal.


Abortion on demand is available for any reason within the first trimester.


Abortion on demand for any reason.

    About the Author

  • Norm Miller