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Abortion: Ahí es un detalle…

12 May 2007

Although first trimester abortions are to be be legal in the Federal District, whether the District’s health facilities will be able to meet the expected demand is a question. Most health facilities in Mexico are not run by the federal government, including the National Women’s Hospital, where the Secretary of Health spoke on Mothers Day:

Health Secretary José Ángel Córdova Villalobos warned that any doctor who performs a voluntary abortion in a federal health facility will be guilty of a crime and punished.

“The Federal Penal Code is clear,” said Córdova Villalobos, speaking at the Mother´s Day re-inauguration of the refurbished Women´s Hospital (Hospital de la Mujer) in Mexico City. “The sanctions are prison time, fines and a suspension of his or her medical license, which can be for several years.”

The District claims it has enough facilities of its own to meet local demand, but the crunch is going from women travelling to the capital for health care needs, including abortions.

The private clinic where I had a health-card (it was pretty much like an HMO… you paid a set annual price and then a small payment for any specialist’s visit) was owned by a group connected with the Sisters of Mercy. For things they really weren’t supposed to know about they sent you to the specialist outside the clinic. It’s a hassle and I expect doctors themselves will be doing a lot of referrals and there will be a lot of administrators looking the other way or writing up the abortions as somehow medically necessary until the Secretary comes to his senses.

Córdova Villalobos is a surgeon from Guadelajara, chosen for his political activities within PAN, not a public health specialist. Given the importance and acceptability of birth control in Mexico, I think he’s fighting a losing battle, and one that’s not going to help his party, or public health.

This is political posturing, and Mexico’s public health system has made too many advances to fall back. Interesting that in Yucatan, where first trimester abortions have been legal for women who already have three children and can plead poverty, are performed in federal facilities. But what happens in Yucatan stays in Yucatan. What happens in DF happens in the Capital and makes the front page of even the foreign press.

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