Mexico expected to legalize abortion

Conservatives counterattack with new measure.

Published April 2, 2007 9:10PM (EDT)

As Mexico's abortion battle rages, it's hard not to recognize some familiar staples from the ongoing reproductive rights battle stateside: religious zealotry, "baby killer" rhetoric and, of course, death threats. But luckily, according to the New York Times, it seems the Roman Catholic country's capital will soon have one more thing in common with its northern neighbors: legalized abortion.

Within weeks, Mexico City's legislature is expected to pass a measure legalizing abortion within the first trimester of pregnancy. (Currently, women are allowed abortions only if they've been raped or if their life is at risk.) The country's antiabortion activists pushed back last week by introducing a bill that would charge women who have illegal abortions with a one-to-three-year prison sentence -- already they face a sentence of six months to a year. (There had better be a clause in the bill for an increase in prison funding, though -- conservative estimates project that 110,000 or so women each year have illegal abortions in the country.)

Along with the familiar legislative jockeying, antiabortion activists have unleashed all manner of dreadful poetic pronouncements: "If [the bill] is signed, it will spill a lot of blood, the blood of babies just conceived in the maternal womb," Jorge Serrano Limón, head of a local antiabortion group, told the Times. Of course, there have been countless defenses of fetuses' right to life over mothers' bodily rights. The similarities to the American antiabortion movement don't end there, either: While activists doggedly defend "the right to life," they royally fail to help prevent the need for abortion. "There is no access to information, to contraceptives," said María Consuelo Mejía, director of Catholics for the Right to Decide. "Nor do most women have the power to negotiate the use of contraceptives with their partners."

But for all the sad similarities, it's important to remember that Mexico's abortion debate is only in its infancy. As the Times points out, this is the same country where television producers and soap stars have been excommunicated by the church for merely raising the issue on the small screen. It's remarkable that the issue is being publicly debated at all.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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