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Mexico City parliament votes decisively
for decriminalisation of early abortions
By Adriana Maciel, Mexico Editor
25 April 2007: Mexico City’s legislators have approved reforms to current abortion laws. Under the new legislation, abortions carried out during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy will no longer be a criminal offence. The new legislation focuses on the sexual and reproductive health of women and the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. City Mayors was told that the proposals are also designed to reduce mortality during pregnancy and childbirth as wells as death through back-street abortions.
The reform bill, which was approved by 46 to 19 votes, with one absgtention, was originally put forward by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Alternative Party and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).
The PRD party at the legislative assembly now expects the reforms to the criminal code and the health law of the Federal District to be implemented before the end of April 2007. However, opponents to the reforms such as Carlos Abascal, former Secretary of the Interior, stated that the National Action Party (PAN), [a party with religious roots] will instigate legal actions in order to avoid “the slaughter of innocent children through a bill that allows the abortion practise in the country’s capital.”
Mexico’s new President Felipe Calderón, a member of the PAN Party questioned the rights of local legislators to propose such reforms and accused them of trying to divide society. But the capital’s Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a member of the PRD party, openly supported the reform and called on the Catholic Church and other groups, opposed to the reform bill, not to interfere with the legislative process.
The reforms are being supported by wide sections of society but also rejected and criticized by many others such as the leaders of all Churches, the College of Catholic Attorneys and Pro-Vida (pro-life) National Commission, whose leader Jorge Serrano Limón is said to have sent a threatening letter to Mayor Ebrard.
Emilio Alvarez, Mexico City’s ombudsman, said that the Church must not intervene in the legislative process: “There are people who are unhappy about the proposals, but the main issue we are discussing is the construction of a mechanism to ensure the rights of women.”
According to an opinion poll carried out early in 2007, Mexican public opinion is divided over decriminalising abortion. Some 49 per cent of Mexicans agreed with the liberal reforms, while 48.5 per cent were opposed with 2.5 per cent being undecided.
The reforms approved by Mexico’s City legislative assembly are as much about education as about issues of law. Some aspects guarantee women access to contraceptives and sex education aimed to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
The reformers also discussed issues such as legal definitions of pregnancies, time limits for any legal abortions and the severity of punishment for any illegal abortions. The Human Right Commission of Mexico City commented that prison sentences should only be imposed under exceptional circumstances.
Some 14 per cent of all women who die as a consequence of back-street abortions live in the country’s capital. Botched abortions are the third-biggest cause of maternity death among Mexican City women.
According to GIRE, In Latin America only two countries that prohibit abortion altogether: Chile and El Salvador. Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela, are among those countries where abortions are only allowed to save the life of women. In Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay abortions are allowed if continued pregnancy would be detrimental to a woman’s health. In Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Kitts y Nevis abortions are permitted for mental health reasons, while Cuba, Guyana and Puerto Rico are the only Latin American countries where abortions are permitted without restrictions.
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