Mary Cuddehe

January 4, 2012   | 

This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

Daniela Castro, a 21-year-old administrator for a Mexican children’s charity, got to the hospital just before dark. It was a warm, cloudless July night in 2010, and Daniela grabbed the arm of her boyfriend of three years, a handsome architecture student named Carlos Bautista. The two walked through the entrance confidently. If anything, they looked more like a pair of teen models than a couple of criminals. But Daniela was at the hospital that night because she had taken abortion pills that made her sick. Abortion is banned throughout Mexico, and authorities in her native Guanajuato, a mid-sized state in the center of Mexico with an ultraconservative reputation, like to enforce the law.


The state has opened at least 130 investigations into illegal abortions over the past decade, according to research by women’s rights groups, and fourteen people, including three men, have been criminally convicted. Given Mexico’s 2 percent national conviction rate during its most violent period since the revolution, that’s a successful ratio.

But Daniela did not have such numbers in her head when she told the attending physician her story. A few days earlier, she and Carlos had turned to Carlos’s mother for help. Of their parents, Norma Angelica Rodriguez, 41, was the most likely to be sympathetic. She had been a young mother herself, and she knew of a pharmacy in town that would sell Misoprostol—an over-the-counter ulcer drug that women take to induce labor—without asking a lot of questions. Rodriguez knew this because, like the estimated 875,000 Mexican women who have abortions every year, she had once needed the drug herself.

The doctor listened to Daniela, then slipped out of the room and made a call. Guanajuato hospitals are expected to report suspicious miscarriages just as they would a gunshot wound. It wasn’t long before a couple of officers arrived, followed by a lawyer from the district attorney’s office, who took out a note pad. “So, Daniela, how many people have you had sex with?” he asked, jotting down the answers. “And who gave you those pills?” That night, the DA opened an official probe into Daniela’s case. If convicted, both she and Carlos’s mother—though not Carlos—faced up to three years in prison.

* * *

Mexico has thirty-two states if you include Mexico City’s federal district, and until the spring of 2007, when Mexico City legalized it during the first twelve weeks of gestation, abortion was illegal in all of them. It was rarely prosecuted, though, and there were also legal exemptions. Every state had one for rape, and many to save the mother’s life; one state even had an exemption for economic hardship. Access, though, was another story. I once asked Rigoberto Velarde, the silver-haired state coordinator for Guanajuato’s Maternal Health Program, where a pregnant rape victim could get the procedure that was her legal right. Velarde drew back in his chair, widened his eyes and looked at me like I was crazy. “She can’t do that!” was his reply. Mexico’s abortion laws date back to the 1930s, and in the intervening decades two parallel systems have developed. Wealthy women could go to a private doctor or, since Roe v. Wade, travel to the United States. But any woman at the mercy of the public health system was pretty much on her own.

Mexico City’s legalization law, which required city hospitals to provide the service free, was the first in Mexico and one of few like it in Latin America (in many states the tide is turning in the other direction: in 2008 Nicaragua instituted a criminal prohibition on abortions, with no exemptions; in 2009 the Dominican Republic did the same). A month later, the National Human Rights Commission, whose director opposed the law, and the attorney general filed appeals with the Supreme Court, arguing that the law was unconstitutional. A long and closely watched debate roiled Mexico off and on for a year, until the justices finally voted to uphold the law, in August 2008. Abortion was now legal—and free—in the capital of one of the world’s most Catholic countries. It looked like a great victory for feminists.

* * *

Up until 2007 there had only been advances on abortion,” Elsa Conde, a former Mexico City legislator and the director of the National Alliance for the Right to Choose, one of the country’s leading abortion rights groups, told me in the summer of 2010. Advocates like Conde had spent decades chipping away at state-level bans. In 2004, for example, they got Baja California Sur to amend its rape exemption so that victims would actually be able to get legal surgeries at public hospitals; the following year the state reduced its maximum penalty to two years in jail. “But then we started seeing setbacks,” Conde went on. “And since October 2008, all we’ve seen is setback after setback after setback.” That year, lawmakers next door, in Baja California, passed a controversial fetal-rights constitutional amendment. While it did not technically change the existing rules—abortion could not become more illegal, after all—it codified one of the key goals of the US Christian right since Roe v. Wade: legally protected life beginning at “the moment of conception.” And an amendment is much harder to overturn than a law. By the end of 2009, fifteen more states had passed versions of this extreme ley anti-aborto.

The amendments were similar to a measure recently defeated in a Mississippi referendum but being prepared in other parts of the United States. In fact, the US “personhood” movement has been taking lessons from its neighbor to the south. In September Mexico’s Supreme Court rejected constitutional challenges to the ley anti-aborto in two states, providing a new spring of confidence for US anti-choicers. “This decision in Mexico provides proof that it is a viable strategy that is working in other places,” said Gualberto Garcia Jones, a legal analyst with Personhood USA. “If it had gone the other way, we would have seen pro-lifers say, If it can’t work in Mexico, it can’t work in the US.” Seventeen Mexican states—more than half the country—now have a fetal-rights amendment on the books. (Chihuahua has had one since 1994, and the seventeenth state, Tamaulipas, approved one in 2010.) This would be like the Mississippi ballot succeeding and then spreading to twenty-five states between now and the end of 2012.

The sweep was so fast and successful that no one had ever seen anything like it. Two of the three main national parties sponsored the amendments—President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) as well as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Being anti-abortion was inherent in the PAN agenda, and the party’s state congressmen were strategizing about how to fight Mexico City’s legalization law at national meetings as early as the fall of 2007, according to a legislator who attended. (“Vicente Fox made ‘the Catholic look’ fashionable again,” Roberto Hernandez, a political analyst based in Mexico City, once told me.) The PRI’s participation was more of a departure from that party’s centrist foundations, and not all the rank and file were on board, but the PRI had been badly splintered since losing the presidency to the PAN in 2000, and the party core, perhaps sensing a change in the public mood and determined to take back the presidency in 2012, has supported the ley anti-aborto.

Catholic civic groups had done their part. Jorge Serrano, the skinny, flat-topped director of Pro-Vida, a prominent anti-abortion group based in Mexico City, became a fixture as he choreographed protests against the capital’s legalization law (one day a group of women who had had enough of his crusading showed up to taunt Serrano with a “rainstorm of thongs”—bunches of thong underwear stapled to their placards). The Mexican division of the Knights of Columbus got involved, too, mailing lawmakers plastic fetuses representing the various stages of gestation.

But as far as the feminist movement was concerned, the Catholic Church played the lead role. This was so widely believed, it was taken as fact. I was told more than once, for example, that Norberto Rivera, Mexico City’s archbishop, had hosted a fancy dinner for PAN governors and their wives during which he urged them to pass the ley anti-aborto as he pressed special rosaries from the pope into their hands. A PRI state congresswoman told me she had met a Vatican emissary who was traveling from state to state on a hush-hush lobbying mission. More recently, a bishop from Mexicali spurred the conspiracy mill when he implied that the pope had called the Supreme Court justices to influence their votes to support the ley. (The diocese declined to speak with The Nation.) But, as I learned one morning in the summer of 2010, a concentrated effort like this may not have been necessary.

That day I took a bus from Mexico City to Aguascalientes, a tiny, landlocked state in the heart of the country’s Bible Belt. Monica Delgado, the fresh-faced, preppy PAN congresswoman who drafted the Aguascalientes version of the ley, ushered me into her office in the Congressional building. There were different floors for the different parties, and the PAN floor was decorated with posters for an anti-abortion group called Vifac, whose motto is “We celebrate life.” Delgado explained that, like most PANistas, she was disturbed by the Supreme Court decision upholding Mexico City’s abortion-rights law and wanted to “bulletproof” her state against any progressive incursions. After she had finished drafting the amendment, Delgado said, she and the eight other PAN state lawmakers walked across the plaza to meet the local prelate. It sounded like the beginning of a joke: nine congressmen go to see a priest. But Delgado didn’t see anything funny or strange about the visit. The prelate had been nagging her and her colleagues in his weekly radio address, and the meeting was a “courtesy,” she said. “We had to go over and tell him, ‘It’s already been presented!’” Delgado’s proposal eventually stalled because of resistance from local feminist groups and one liberal PRI congresswoman who controlled a crucial committee. But with priests and politicians this close, it wasn’t hard to imagine the same scene playing to a different outcome in other states, regardless of any organized intervention by high-ranking clergy.

* * *

According to Diego Valadés, a legal scholar at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, state constitutional amendments nearly always take at least a couple of months to be approved. And yet when it came to fetal rights, lawmakers in most states where the ley anti-aborto passed managed to muscle it through in a matter of days. “There has never been anything like it; it was an almost synchronized series of events,” said Valadés. But like any work hastily composed, the ley was imperfect and seemed to place the IUD and in-vitro fertilization—not to mention exceptions to the abortion restrictions that were still on the books in many states—into a legal gray zone. “They say we protect life since conception—except for these causes that we already had,” said Fatima Juarez, a demographics expert at the Colegio de Mexico, in Mexico City. “How can you reconcile ‘We protect since conception’ and ‘You can [terminate a pregnancy] for economic reasons’? It’s illogical.” Now many fear that women who terminate a pregnancy for any reason can be prosecuted for infanticide.

Instead, state prosecutors dusted off the old abortion penal codes—most of which call for prison terms or fines—and opened investigations: ten in Veracruz, thirty in Puebla and thirty-one in Hidalgo. In 2009 in the southern state of Quintana Roo, a Mayan woman was wrongfully jailed for what turned out to be a spontaneous miscarriage, and in 2010 an 11-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by her stepfather was denied an abortion because she was four months pregnant—one month past the allowable twelve weeks. The cases became a flashpoint in the national debate over abortion and the fairness of the ley, and when I called Elsa Conde again this past August, she described what she said was a mini-backlash to the backlash: four more states had strengthened access to abortion for rape victims. But Conde was quick to add that pro-choice advocates remain in a “position of defense.” “Basically,” she said, “we’re just trying to make sure no other states adopt the ley anti-aborto.”

In May 2009 the ley was approved with a two-thirds majority in Guanajuato. Just nine years earlier, the state congress had voted to eliminate the exemption for rape victims, but the governor was forced to veto it after a public outcry. In 2009 public school teachers staged a bonfire of middle school biology textbooks, and subsequent editions had some noteworthy changes in the chapter on sex: life now begins at the “moment of conception,” and virginity is “a treasure.”

But if one episode cemented Guanajuato’s conservative status, it came in the summer of 2010, when Centro Las Libres, a women’s health group in Guanajuato City, broke the news that seven women were in prison on a charge that amounted to infanticide—homicidio con razón de parentesco, or homicide of a family member—with a maximum penalty of twenty-nine years. Some had already spent more than six years in prison, so their sentences said more about the cruelty of the Mexican criminal justice system than the new ley anti-aborto. But the women became symbols of the dangerous consequences of criminalizing abortion and a focal point for the left in organizing against the ley. All the women said the fetuses they were accused of murdering were stillborn or miscarried. Yolanda Martínez, who says she didn’t even know she was pregnant, was alleged to have left a nearly full-term fetus to die in an outhouse. But police had first arrested her on suspicion of abandoning another infant—not hers, it turned out—found that day in a different part of town. Once she was in custody, her house was searched, and officers emerged with blankets that they claimed had held her dead newborn. Susana Dueñas says three experts declared the baby she was accused of killing a stillbirth, but the judge sided with a fourth opinion, of a doctor on the prosecutor’s payroll. After a media outcry, the state reduced the penalty for the type of homicide they had been charged under—from twenty-nine to eight years. In September 2010 all seven women were released for time served.

* * *

Las Libres is not the only women’s rights group in Guanajuato, but it is the most vocal. It was the unrelenting campaigning of Las Libres that was crucial in getting the seven women released, and when the New York Times ran a story about it, the group’s director, Veronica Cruz, appeared in the accompanying photo, protectively embracing one of the newly released women.

The first time I met Cruz was on an overcast morning in the summer of 2009. Forty years old, with a round face and light brown hair, she has the energy of a longtime activist. She is earnest but cynical. Inside the Las Libres headquarters on the outskirts of Guanajuato City, she introduced me to a petite woman dressed in white named Rosario. She was 20 and had recently completed a nine-month probation sentence. Her story was shocking to me at the time. She had taken abortion pills, fallen ill with nausea, gone to the hospital and been reported to the police. She said the staff had mistreated her, calling her names, completing the abortion surgically without anesthesia (which is standard) and allowing medical students into the room to take pictures with their cellphones. She paused and started to cry. About a month after the surgery, she said, she was lured out of her house in her slippers by men in an unmarked van and taken to jail in handcuffs. Her family borrowed the money to pay the $800 bond.

But it turns out that going to the hospital is a common way for Mexican women to get caught. According to the US-based Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health and rights organization, the abortion-related hospitalization rate in Mexico is high—17 percent in 2006 (it is 0.3 percent in the United States). This is because so many abortions are clandestine, exposing women to physical as well as legal risks.

This past June I went back to Guanajuato to see Cruz. I found her curled up in a chair, gossiping with her sister, who helps run the office, and another volunteer. Cruz said that a couple of women had recently been arrested but that she wasn’t following their cases. “Honestly, it’s just too many to keep up with,” she said with a shrug. Daniela Castro’s was one of the last like it that Las Libres had pursued, so she picked up the phone to call her.

Daniela agreed to meet me at a cafe across from a large salmon-hued cathedral in the plaza of a nearby town. She looked carefree and summery in a floral A-line skirt and a fitted white T-shirt. But it was just a year before that Daniela woke up every morning worried that she was going to prison, and her life seemed to be falling apart. “My friends stopped talking to me, and they even wrote messages on my Facebook,” she said. Carlos quit the local university for a cheaper school two hours away so they could afford a private attorney, but he proved as useless as the public defender. For a while, they had no idea what to do. “We were thinking about running away to the United States—like wetbacks,” Daniela said, shaking her head. Las Libres heard about the case and connected Daniela with a group of pro bono lawyers from Mexico City who complained to the state Human Rights Commission. They argued that Daniela’s hospital interview was inadmissible because she hadn’t had a legal representative present. That small oversight seemed to be all that was needed: a few weeks later, Daniela’s case was closed for lack of evidence.

After we talked, Carlos and Daniela offered me a ride to the bus station. Carlos had been quiet most of the afternoon, but he suddenly chimed in as he was driving. “At the time there were all these kidnappings going on, all these people on the street kidnapping and murdering,” he said. “And yet we were the ones they had down at the prosecutor’s office.” Then he fell silent again, edging the truck around a corner.

November 2, 2011

Legalization of abortion in the Federal District of Mexico (Mexico City) has been a great achievement, but one important ingredient was missing: mifepristone. However, with Mexico’s recent decision to register mifepristone, women will now benefit from the highly effective combination of mifepristone and misoprostol to end early pregnancy.

Abortion during the first trimester was decriminalized in the Federal District in April 2007, and within 24 hours the Secretaría de Salud del Distrito Federal (SSDF) was providing abortion care. Women with no health insurance who reside in the Federal District could—and still do—receive abortions at no cost to them, while women living outside the Federal District pay on a sliding scale. Demand was overwhelming; women arrived in the middle of the night and slept on the sidewalk to be sure they would receive services when the clinic was open. Early on, procedures were almost always done with dilation and curettage (D&C), but with continual training, manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) has now almost entirely replaced D&C. However, because there weren’t enough doctors or space to offer MVA to all women, those women who were nine weeks pregnant or less and who lived within the Federal District were given medical abortion. Women more than nine weeks pregnant or who lived beyond the Federal District received MVA.

While mifepristone was not registered or available in Mexico, misoprostol was widely available. Therefore, the medical abortion regimen used since 2007 has been sequential doses of misoprostol 800 mcg taken by the buccal route.

Now mifepristone is registered in Mexico. It will soon be available to physicians in private offices and clinics who are registered to administer it, and it will also be stocked in pharmacies to be dispensed as a Class 3 prescription (similar to prescriptions for narcotics that require a physician’s prescription). Mifepristone has also been added to the Essential Drug List in the Federal District so the public hospitals and clinics will be able to work on procurement.

Outside of the Federal District, states in Mexico have laws that restrict induced abortion to limited circumstances, such as rape, risk of death or if the health of the woman is in great danger. However, there may be some indications within those laws for mifepristone/misoprostol use; how mifepristone and misoprostol are used in some states may evolve.

In addition, Gynuity Health Projects and SSDF recently completed a joint study using mifepristone 200 mg combined with misoprostol 800 mcg by the buccal route. One thousand women were recruited for the study and the results were significant: The high success rate of this regimen was virtually identical to the success rates of mifepristone and misoprostol medical abortion published elsewhere, explained Dr. Patricio Sanheuza, SSDF’s coordinator of reproductive health. Sanheuza described the study—as well as the status of mifepristone and plans to integrate it in the public sector—at a meeting organized by SSDF and Gynuity Health Projects in July in Mexico City.

The many organizations and individuals that worked tirelessly to make mifepristone available in Mexico are now hopeful that the results of this joint study, combined with on-going advocacy efforts, will continue to expand women’s access to this highly effective medical abortion drug.

* This story is published as part of the newsletter Medical Abortion Matters, November 2011.


29 September 2011

Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld an amendment to Baja California’s state constitution that stipulates life begins at conception, in a move hailed by anti-abortion campaigners.

Although seven of the 11 justices deemed the measure unconstitutional, eight votes were needed to overturn it.

More than half Mexico’s 31 states have enacted right-to-life amendments that severely restrict abortions.

However, Mexico City allows abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Anti-abortion campaigners cheered after hearing the Supreme Court ruling.

“We have to continue working so that life may triumph,” Jorge Serrano, leader of an anti-abortion organisation Pro-Life, told Reuters.

The Supreme Court is due to consider a similar amendment in the state of San Luis Potosi, where the law also says that life begins at conception.

Justice Fernando Franco proposed the motion to declare Baja California’s law unconstitutional but the opposition of four judges sank the measure.

Giving their ruling, the justices said they based their analysis “strictly on constitutional issues. That is, the issue under debate was the power of states to legislate on topics that are not expressly determined by the federal constitution”.

However, some women’s rights activists fear that allowing individual states to decide their own rules may create a divide between those able to go to Mexico City for a legal abortion and those living in states where it is largely restricted.

Mexico City government’s Human Rights Commission said the court’s stance would worsen the serious public health problem of clandestine abortions.

The ruling highlights the difference between policies pursued by Mexico City’s authorities and more conservative administrations in other states, correspondents say.

All Mexican states allow abortion when pregnancy results from rape and most permit it when the woman’s life is in danger.

But pro-choice campaigners say that in practice this does not always happen.


A serious case of discrimination and violence against women has just taken
place in Mexico. A young woman accused of having an abortion has been
sentenced to 23 years in prison, which has inspired an urgent national,
regional and international campaign in solidarity.
On January 20. 2011, in the State of Baja California, Mexico, a
21-year-old woman was sentenced to serve a prison sentence of 23 years for
the crime of aggravated homicide (specifically, parricide) for what the
accused says was a miscarriage in 2008.

On December 26, 2008, amendments to the Constitution of the State of Baja
California were adopted to protect life from the moment of conception,
similar to reforms promoted in 15 states throughout the Republic. Thanks
to such acts of dogmatism and ignorance, contrary to the principle of
equality and fundamental rights in general, authorities from three states
so far have sought to imprison women who have made decisions with regard
to their bodies, exercising their rights to equality and freedom from
discrimination and their sexual and reproductive rights.

Therefore, many organizations and individuals committed to equality and
women’s citizenship are demanding that the Governor of Baja California,
José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, authorize the immediate release of the woman,
who was sentenced as a murderer and condemned serve a 23-year prison

They also urge the State Congress of Baja California and the president of
this legislative body, Nancy Sánchez Arredondo, to observe and enforce
regulations protecting women’s human rights, demanding that the State
Government respect the separation of Church and State and ensure respect
for women’s human rights.

Finally, they ask the Human Rights Ombudsman of Baja California protect
the rights and legal status of women in that state in order to ensure the
effective protection of individual rights, strictly in accordance with the

The demand is signed by the Red Iberoamericana Pro Derechos Humanos Alaide
Foppa A.C., Federación de Mujeres Universitaria de Baja California.

Signatures in support of these demands should be sent to the following




By Tracy Wilkinson and Cecilia Sanchez

Reporting from Mexico City — Advocates say the women, who insist they suffered miscarriages, got caught up in Mexico’s cultural wars over abortion.

The seven women were accused of killing their newborn babies and handed long prison sentences. They insisted they had suffered miscarriages and should not be punished; one claimed she wasn’t even sure she was pregnant.

The women have finally been freed, after years in jail and only after their cause was taken up by human rights organizations here and abroad and by a handful of determined legislators.

However the pregnancies ended, the cases highlighted the poor quality of reproductive healthcare and education in parts of Mexico, and the stigma still attached to unwanted pregnancies.

The seven on Tuesday evening stepped from prison in the colonial city of Guanajuato, 220 miles northwest of Mexico City, raising their arms in joy and shouting, “We are free!” Relatives and supporters greeted them.

“I just want to move on, study and help other women,” one of the women, Yolanda Martinez, told reporters Wednesday morning.

Free, but not exonerated. The women were released only after the state legislature reduced the penalty for the crime most were convicted of: infanticide.

Advocates for the women say they got caught up in Mexico’s cultural wars over abortion. Abortion was legalized in Mexico City in 2007, but not in the rest of the country. In numerous states, Guanajuato included, there has been a backlash as local authorities seek to restrict even further the ability of women to terminate their pregnancies.

Veronica Cruz, director of Las Libres social-welfare center in Guanajuato that supported the women, said she believed authorities wanted to prosecute the women for having induced abortions. But abortion only carries a sentence of six months to three years in jail. By charging them with killing a full-term born infant, authorities could send the women to prison for up to 29 years and send a chilling message.

“In reality, they just wanted to further criminalize abortion,” Cruz said in a telephone interview from Guanajuato.

Martinez had served six years and eight months of a 25-year sentence. An additional 160 women are behind bars in Guanajuato for having had abortions or self-induced miscarriages, Cruz said.

Guanajuato Gov. Juan Manuel Oliva had said abortion was not the issue, noting the women were imprisoned for killing their babies, not for having had abortions. But, as pressure mounted, he agreed to review the cases and eventually proposed that the penalties be reduced.

Two of the seven women released from jail had said they were impregnated in rapes. Another of the freed women, Ana Rosa Padron, said she was happy to be pregnant and looking forward to the birth of her second child. After feeling terrible pain in her belly, she passed out and awoke to find she had miscarried, she said. But state investigators accused her of giving birth and then smothering the baby by clamping her hand over its mouth and nose. She began serving a 29-year sentence two years ago.

Marianne Mollmann, advocacy director for women’s rights at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, began investigating the Guanajuato cases a year ago. She said that while it is impossible to know exactly what happened to end the pregnancies, it was clear that authorities were determined to prosecute the women “without compassion or concern for the context.”

“It was strange to me that [prosecutors] were so viciously targeting women who are not given the basic tools to make responsible decisions about their reproductive lives,” Mollmann said in a telephone interview from New York.

State investigators declined to comment Wednesday. They previously have defended their handling of the cases and insisted the women were guilty.

Seven women in Mexico serving prison terms of up to 29 years for the death of their newborns were freed Tuesday after a legal reform enacted in the state of Guanajuato lowered their sentences.

The women’s cases case drew national attention in Mexico and their release is unlikely to staunch the fiery debate about whether some conservative states are trying to overzealously enforce bans on elective abortion by charging women who may have suffered miscarriages.

The women are largely poor and uneducated, and they claim they suffered miscarriages — not viable births — and did nothing to harm their fetuses.

“They are innocent, they all suffered miscarriages,” said women’s rights activist Veronica Cruz, who championed their cases.

State prosecutors maintained to the end that the women’s trials were fair, that their babies were born alive but died because of mistreatment or lack of care, a crime defined under state law “homicide against a relative.”

The women were not absolved, but rather released under a legal reform passed after the state government concluded that their sentences “were inappropriate, given that they were excessively punitive and ranged from 25 to 35 years.”

The reform reduced the sentences to 3 to 8 years, the time already served by the women.

“The important thing was to have them freed,” Cruz said. “They will talk and decide if they want to undertake any other action,” to pursue a reversal of their sentences.

The Guanajuato state government said it will help the women get on with their lives after some spent as long as 8 years in prison.

However, the state’s reputation for conservatism made many suspicious.

While Guanajuato still allows abortion under very limited circumstances, like rape, rights activists say that in practice even that possibility is often denied women.

Activist Rosalia Cruz Sanchez says doctors fearing prosecution often require a woman impregnated by rape to produce a letter from prosecutors confirming that. She said authorities often delay until the window for such an abortion — 12 weeks in most states — has passed, forcing the woman to bear the child.

Abortion on demand in the first trimester is legal only in Mexico City, under a 2007 law that has enraged the country’s conservatives and sparked a wave of state right-to-life laws.

While the “Guanajuato Seven” have received largely favorable media coverage, not everyone was cheering about the legal reform that led to their release.

In a statement, two pro-life groups — the Yucatan Pro Network and The Center for Women’s Studies — said that “homicide against a relative will never be a woman’s right.”

It is “worrisome that now a woman attacking the life of her child would be considered a non-serious crime, as long as she does it within 24 hours after it is born.”

MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice


For the last 80 years abortion throughout most of Mexico has been highly restricted to only a handful of indications such as in case of rape, if the life or health of the woman is at risk or for fetal malformations. Even today, most states do not have procedures or protocols for providing abortion care to women within the existing indications. In 2007, Mexico City became the exception by decriminalizing abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation.

Abortion in most Mexican states is a matter of social justice since wealthy women can pay for private providers or travel to Mexico City or outside of the country while poor women are forced to risk their health and lives in back-alley abortions. The MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice was founded in order to help precisely these women.

The MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice was founded in 2009 by the Mexican organization Balance: Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud. The Fund is a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), based in the United States.

The Funds’s objectives are to:

– Provide financial support to women that do not have enough resources to access legal abortion services available in Mexico City.

– Provide accompaniment to women that request it.

– Increase awareness about women’s right to legal abortion,

– Strengthen solidarity among women that believe and defend women’s right to a legal abortion.

For women that are eligible to receive support, the Fund provides:

Transportation to and from Mexico City

Transportation within Mexico City

Lodging in Mexico City

Scheduling of the abortion appointment

Total or partial payment for the abortion procedure

Accompaniment and counseling

Informative materials

MARIA receives funding from three sources:

-Small foundation grants or organizational donations

-Women who have received support from the Fund

-Individual donors who support the Fund’s work.

If you are interested in supporting the MARIA Abortion Fund’s work and becoming part of our individual donors network please write to us at maria.balance@gmail.com or make a donation in Mexican Pesos today using Paypal (Please check the exchange rate before donating:  http://www.xe.com/ucc/).

If you would like to receive more information about the MARIA Abortion Fund or are interested in volunteering to accompany women, please contact us at maria.balance@gmail.com or 01800 8327311 ó (00152)52435054 in Mexico.

by Daniela Pastrana

By 5:00 AM, dozens of women are already lined up outside of this clinic in the Mexican capital. Most come with their mothers, sisters, husbands, friends or boyfriends. A few show up alone.

Sitting on the sidewalk, the women and the people accompanying them try to catch a few winks, in spite of the cold, before dawn breaks and numbers are handed out to the lucky ones. Only the first 30 will be seen today. The rest will have to come back another day.

There are 15 public hospitals in the federal district of the capital that offer safe, legal abortions, but the Beatriz Velasco Reproductive Health Clinic has carried out one-quarter of such procedures since first trimester abortion was legalised by the Mexico City legislature in April 2007.

“The men are great at bringing them here, but not at taking responsibility for supporting their children,” a mother accompanying her young daughter before dawn remarks to IPS.

Standing behind her in the queue, an office worker says this is the third time she’s tried to get a turn, and that no one in her family or at her job knows she’s pregnant.

“No matter what they say, there’s still a lot of prejudice, and they do stigmatise you,” says the young woman.

“We already have two kids, and this year we both lost our jobs, so I just don’t see any other option,” another woman, whose husband’s arm is around her shoulders, says brusquely.

In the last three years, some 65,000 women have visited public health facilities to find out about abortions, and 40,000 have undergone the procedure, the Mexico City health secretariat reported this month.

Of that total, 1,200, or three percent of the cases, came from outside the greater Mexico City area from other states.

Nearly half of these, 550, were able to travel to the capital to get a safe, legal abortion over the last year thanks to the support of a group of young women who work in the Fondo de Aborto para la Justicia Social MARÍA (MARÍA Abortion Fund for Social Justice).

MARÍA (the group’s acronym for Women, Abortion, Reproduction, Information and Accompaniment) was founded in May 2009 to provide information, support and financial assistance to women outside greater Mexico City who want an abortion.

“The aim is to get the Federal District law to reach out farther,” Oriana López, director of operations of MARÍA, told IPS.

MARÍA forms part of the National Network of Abortion Funds, an umbrella group for local abortion funds mainly in the United States, and receives financing from Mexican reproductive health groups.

Since December it has also been building a network of individual donors, who now number just over 200, that has helped give the project financial stability. The organisation has even set up a PayPal account for donations.

The aim of the group now is to give some training to the people who accompany the women to get an abortion, who presently provide “basically logistical support.”

“The concept that this is a right is still very weak,” said López. “Women feel it, more than they actually understand it; it’s like there’s a discrepancy between what they believe and what is right, and what they’ve been told.”

According to the Mexico City government, which has been in the hands of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) since 1997, 83 percent of the abortions that have been carried out were medically induced using abortifacient drugs, 12 percent were performed using vacuum aspiration, and five percent were done by dilation and curettage.

The law legalising abortion in the capital triggered a wave of legal counter-reforms pushed by the most conservative sectors of society in Mexico, led by the local Catholic Church hierarchy and right-wing political leaders, which tightened already strict state legislation against abortion.

As a result, in 18 of Mexico’s 31 states, abortion is now illegal even when the mother’s life is at risk, in cases of rape or incest, or in cases of fetal malformation.


Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld a law requiring hospitals to offer rape victims a morning-after birth control pill, rejecting an appeal that argued the pill’s effect constitutes the equivalent of an abortion.

Abortion is regulated under state laws in Mexico, and most of the 31 states outlaw elective abortions. An appeal filed by the Jalisco state government says the federal morning-after law is an intrusion on states’ rights.

But justices disagreed in an 10-1 vote Thursday. The majority ruled that use of the pill is not the equivalent of abortion, but rather is part of a public health policy.

The court said the federal government has the right to set health policy.

Read more: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/05/27/1203523/mexico-upholds-morning-after-pill.html?story_link=email_msg#ixzz0pF8aiKte