Women will now be able to legally abort during their first 12 weeks of pregnancy in Mexico City. An estimated 200,000 illegal abortions are performed in Mexico each year, and approximately 1,500 women die per year due to complications arising from poorly done abortions. Botched abortions constitute “the third-leading cause of death for pregnant women in the capital.”
Now, over 10 million women in the federal district, as well as any women willing to travel to the city, will have access to legal abortion. Women under the age of 18 will need parental consent, but the procedure will be nearly free for low-income or uninsured city residents. Under new law, women who have an abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy could be punished with up to six months in jail. Those performing abortions after the 12 weeks will up to three years in jail.
The city assembly has passed a number of controversial laws recently, including a civil union law. The assembly is currently considering legalizing euthanasia. Previous to the 46 to 9 vote that passed the law, abortion in Mexico was only legal in cases of rape, danger to mother’s life, or severe fetal defects, as in most other Latin American Countries. Cuba and Guyana (and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico) are the only other Latin American countries in which first trimester abortions are allowed, and abortion is completely illegal in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Chile.
Mexico is home to the world’s second largest Roman Catholic population. The bill was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI, and the archbishop of Acapulco, Felipe Aguirre Franco, threatened to excommunicate lawmakers who voted for it. Opponents are expected to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court, based on the Mexican Constitution’s prohibition of the death penalty and the fact that the assembly ignored a 36,000 signature conservative-led petition for a referendum on the issue. The Court’s 2002 ruling in favor or abortion in the case of rape and incest bode well for the new law.
President Felipe Calderón has abstained from comment, but the first lady spoke out against it. A small protest of 50 abortion-rights activists were corralled by riot police and heckled by over 200 opponents during the ruling.