April 16, 2007

Washington Post Hosts Live Online Discussion on Access to Abortions in Mexico

Head over to the Washington Post today at noon ET for an online discussion with WaPo Mexico City bureau chief Manuel Roig-Franzia about the abortion conflict in Mexico. You can submit questions and comments before or during the discussion — and if you’re reading this at a later date, you can still view the transcript.

Roig-Fanzia had a very good story in Sunday’s paper about two proposals to expand access to abortions and the fierce political and cultural debate it has sparked:

Much as in the United States in the 1960s, in Mexico it is the state legislatures that have become abortion flash points. Abortion rights advocates scored their biggest victory in 2000 in the state of Yucatan, northwest of Cancun. Yucatan now allows abortions for women who already have three children and can prove that they cannot afford another child. All Mexican states permit abortions for rape victims, though a study by Human Rights Watch found that local officials frequently find ways to deny the procedures.

The proposed law in Mexico City, which is a federal district and functions much like a state, is potentially broader than the law in Yucatan. The measure would permit abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy if having a child would be “incompatible” with a woman’s “life project,” a standard that could allow abortions for pregnant women who don’t want to interrupt school or work. It is backed by the Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, which holds a large majority in the city legislature.

The national legislation, also sponsored by the PRD, faces a more difficult challenge because the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, staunchly opposes abortion. President Felipe Calderón said in an interview last month that he considers the current law “adequate” and would oppose changes.

Despite current restrictions, a university study estimated there are 1 million abortions every year in Mexico, writes Roig-Fanzia, and few prosecutions.

As many as 3,000 women in Mexico die each year from botched abortions, according to abortion rights activists, and as many as 10,000 women are hospitalized.

“The rich either go to the United States for abortions or to private clinics in Mexico, where their doctors are the sole judges of whether the procedure fits the parameters of the law,” writes Roig-Fanzia. “The poor, who can seldom get abortions at public hospitals, go to what critics refer to as back-alley ‘charlatans,’ who openly advertise their services.”

“Abortion has been privatized in Mexico,” Sen. Pablo Gómez, sponsor of the national abortion proposal, tells the Washington Post. “It’s a bad joke.”


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