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Family planning

8 May 2014

With the stink over Rosario Robles‘ ill-considered words to an audience of indigenous women, a surprising development in Guerrero state this last week went practically unnoticed.  State Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero sent a bill to his state legislature that would legalize abortions, which is surprising enough, but more so when the reason given is not only the usual “right to chose”, but protecting public health… arguing that clandestine abortions (especially by those poor women, like the indigenous women addressed by Ms. Robles) are the greater danger to women’s health.  As far as anyone can tell, this is the first time anywhere in Latin America that a liberalized abortion law has been proposed as a public health measure rather than as a matter of sexual equality.   The Governor sent the iniative to the State Legislature in a ceremony attended by the state’s Secretaries of Justice, Women’s Affairs, Education and Government Affairs.

Governor Ángel Aguirre.  Photo by José Luis de la Cruz/Proceso

Governor Ángel Aguirre. Photo by José Luis de la Cruz/Proceso

As a federal matter abortions are legal everywhere in Mexico if the pregancy is a result of rape or incest or when there are fetal deformities, but several states have “life begins at conception” clauses in their own Constitutions and do prosecute (and imprison) women for seeking abortions (or, simply for having a “suspicious miscarriage”) and, as a rule, women are not told they have the right to an abortion when they are legally entitled to one.  One state, Yucatán, authorizes abortions for “economic reasons” if the women has already had three children.  Only in the Federal District are abortions (in the first trimester) legally permitted and relatively available to women seeking one.  Elsewhere, while rich women in the very early stages of pregancy can often seek treatment for “late menstration”,  clandestine abortions (under less than ideal conditions) have been the rule, rather than the exception.  With devasting consequences for women’s health.

In possibly related developments,Alejo Zavala, Archbishop of Chilpancingo, denied earlier today that he had threatened to excommunicate the Governor (as was reported in Proceso), but that he did want to lobby individual legislators about the proposed changes to the legal codeCardinal Norberto Rivera, the Primate of Mexico, has also decreed that despite being a grounds for excommunication, women who have had abortions can seek absolution if they confess during Lent.  Previously, women seeking absolution had to have their confessions heard at the Basilica of Guadalupe or at the Metropolitian Cathederal.  It seems liberalization is coming on all sides on this issue.

(see also:  “Is Abortion Legal in Mexico?”

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