In Mexico’s capital city, anti-choice activists aggressively target and “inspire fear” in women seeking services that were decriminalised a decade ago.
Two years ago, Ana* discovered that she was pregnant. Her physical and mental health are affected by lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis, both chronic diseases. “I would barely be able to care for myself, let alone another child,” she told me.
With a daughter already two years old, Ana decided to terminate her pregnancy. Although she lives in the Mexican state of Puebla, where abortions are only allowed in cases of rape, if a woman’s life is threatened, or when there are serious birth defects or genetic disorders in the fetus.
After a long and hard-fought battle by feminist groups, Mexico City decriminalised abortion in 2007. The nation’s capital allows women to terminate their pregnancies up to the twelfth week.
Yet it remains a progressive island in a sea of conservative states – and the right to choose is threatened as well. Despite their decriminalization, women still have difficulty accessing Legal abortion in clinic in CDMX services. There are also increasing numbers of anti-abortion groups all over the country.
The right to choose is threatened here as well as on this progressive island amid conservative states.
In Ana’s case, she reached out to a friend who was studying in Mexico City, who told her about clinics in the capital where she could get an abortion. Getting there was made possible by MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice (“Maria Fund”).
“It makes me sad thinking about all this,” she said, recalling her visit to the clinic where she learned that the fetus was also not developing properly. Having terminated the pregnancy, she paid dearly at home; her parents kicked her out.
In Mexico, only one of 32 states has decriminalised abortion: Mexico City. Ana’s story is not unique. Fondo Maria has been helping women in Rome with the financial and emotional burdens of accessing abortion services since 2009.
“Social inequality already existed because women in Mexico who have wealth have always been able to access services,” said Oriana Lopez Uribe, former coordinator of Fondo Maria and current executive director of Balance, a feminist civil society organization.
When Mexico City decriminalized abortion, it created a situation of socioeconomic and geographic inequality,” she told me. “Despite being from the same country… women from another state are barred from accessing abortion.”
Women have an unequal burden of domestic work, López added, saying that as a result of such “constant social control of their time and location by their family, their partner, even their community…”, women are unable to travel easily. that women cannot travel easily.” This is true.”
The only Latin American and Caribbean states to decriminalise abortion are Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay. Nine out of ten women in this region are of childbearing age in a country that restricts or outlaws abortion.
Mexico is a federal country with different laws for each state. Abortion is legal in 24 states, where a woman’s life may be at risk; in 16 states, a fetus may have serious birth defects; and in 14 states, her health may be at risk.
Only two Mexican states permit abortion under socio-economic circumstances (if the woman has a low income and already has three children). All 32 Mexican states, according to paper, allow abortion in cases of rape (if the assault is reported to authorities).
According to government statistics, women from Mexico City had 70% of the country’s legal abortions during the last decade, followed by women from the neighboring state of Estado de México (25%). Among all women, only 0.6% were from Puebla.
However, even in Mexico City, activists report steep obstacles, including the 12-week limit in the current law, which they are pushing to extend, as well as the need to improve services at clinics and the threat from increasingly active anti-choice groups.
In Mexico City, abortions are supposed to be free. However, in practice, there isn’t always easy access to information and services. Some women are faced with steep bills when paying for these services privately. Ana said she looked online and discovered that an abortion at a private clinic in the capital might cost between 5,000 and 7,000 pesos (£190 to 265).
Mexico City is supposed to provide free abortions, but in practice the services and information are not always readily available.
Mexican elections are scheduled for mid-2018, with the possibility that the center-left Partido de la Revolución Democratica (PRD), which has governed Mexico City for the past 20 years, may lose power and voting rights may not be secured as well.
Activists for reproductive rights also warn that anti-abortion groups are using more specific and targeted tactics to target and pressure women seeking abortion services.
Grupo de Información en Reprodugida Elegida (GIRE) argued before the Supreme Court the refusal by the conservative state of Hidalgo to grant an abortion for a young pregnant woman who has been raped since 2014.
Jennifer Paine at GIRE reported that, as per its usual process, the Supreme Court published an online record about the case, including the name of the girl. Anti-rights groups then tracked her down and offered her and her family money to withdraw their case.
“This is the first time we’ve seen anything like this,” Paine told me, calling it “a much more specialised and personalized strategy.” And it worked: the family did withdraw the case (though it is unknown whether they took the funds).