Finally, an unprecedented victory in reproductive rights!
Last week, the second largest catholic country approved women’s right to safe abortion during the first 12 weeks. April 24, a great day for Mexican women, especially in the capital city where congress approved with 46 votes in favor, 19 against, and one abstention substantial changes in four articles of the Penal Code and two in the Health Law allowing women to have abortions if they so wish in Mexico City during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The major legal change in the abortion scenario involves article 144 of the Penal Code in which abortion is legally defined as a demeanor only after 12 weeks of gestation when it becomes punishable. After 12 weeks, as established in Article 145 of the Penal Code, women who have an abortion will be subjected to three to six months of in prison or 100 to 300 hours of community work, as opposed to three years of detention as previously stated.
At the same time, the new local Health Law determines that in the Federal District, women have the right to seek abortion and the government must respond to their request through the public health system. The law also establishes that it is the government’s responsibility to promote comprehensive health policies that facilitate the exercise by women and men of their reproductive rights. In addition, the public health system is called to provide medical and social counseling in sexual and reproductive health, including, but not limited to, support to women who want to interrupt their pregnancies.
As described by advocacy organizations in Mexico City, after five months of discussions, and of well orchestrated demonstrations on the part of civil society, the vote took place in congress and the result reflected the position of Mexican women. As described by Perla Vazquez and colleagues of Elige – Red de Jóvenes por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, “After months of marches, vigils, media outreach, debates, and headaches due to the meddling of the Catholic church, and exhaustion, … what followed last week in the capital city was a historical event, and on April 26 the new approved law was published and made official.”
This victory in Mexico City reflects not only the mobilization of the women’s health and rights movement, and of progressive civil society initiatives to shape the debate and involve the mainstream media in it, but also the activism of youth groups such as Elige and DECIDIR. Elige (Elect in Spanish) and DECIDIR (Decide in Spanish) have coordinated to respond to the communication media promptly and systematically during the five months of public debate about the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico.
The advocacy efforts succeeded in push back the catholic church’s attempt to monopolize the debate, and manager to keep the population well. The fight, as illustrate by DECIDIR’s campaign with the image of the “free fighter” as a woman who doesn’t give up, ended with the victory of the lay society.