News Around the Republic of Mexico | April 2007
|Mexico City to Legalize Abortion Despite Protests|
Alexandre Peyrille - Agence France Presse
Legislators in Mexico City were expected on Tuesday to pass legislation legalizing abortion in the megalopolis despite protests from the influential Roman Catholic Church and conservative politicians.
|A group of Mexican Catholics take part in a protest against the legalization of abortion in Mexico City, 22 April 2007. Legislators in Mexico City were expected on Tuesday to pass legislation legalizing abortion in the megalopolis despite protests from the influential Roman Catholic Church and conservative politicians.(AFP/File/Alfredo Estrella)|
The new law would make the Mexican capital one of the rare areas in socially conservative Latin America where abortion is not legally restricted to cases where the woman has been raped or faces health risks.
Only Cuba, Guyana and Puerto Rico have no restrictions on abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.
There was little doubt the new bill would be passed on Tuesday when it goes to a vote in the Mexico City legislative assembly, which is dominated by the leftist PRD, the party of the mayor, who has defied threats of violence.
Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has ordered the deployment of riot police around the legislative buildings. "I will not be intimidated," he said.
The authors of the draft legislation say at least 1,500 women have died in Mexico over the past decade as the result of abortions often performed in clandestine, unhygienic backstreet facilities.
Although Mexico City has allowed rape victims to get abortions since 1931, it was just seven years ago that the law was expanded to include cases where a woman's health was at risk or the fetus showed signs of severe birth defects.
About 100,000 women undergo abortion every year in Mexico, according to official figures, though some non-governmental organizations say the figure is as high as 500,000.
A number of legislators said they received death threats for supporting the law, and some Roman Catholic Church officials have threatened to excommunicate anyone voting in favor of the bill.
The Catholic bishop of the state of Chiapas compared the legislators who drafted the text with Adolf Hitler, though he also condemned the death threats issued against them.
The conservative National Action Party (PAN) of President Felipe Calderon is the only party in the legislative assembly to oppose the bill, and has suggested adoption as an alternative to abortion.
An opinion poll by the Reforma daily showed 53 percent of residents of the Mexican capital favored legalization of abortion, with 42 percent against, but another newspaper, El Universal, put the figures at 44 percent in favor to 48 percent against the bill.
The legislation would not affect other areas of Mexico, where abortion remains generally illegal.