Foreign Policy Blogs

Mexico City Legalizes Abortion

Mexico City's Legislative Assembly voted 46-19 to legalize abortion, and the city's progressive mayor is expected to approve it.  President Felipe Calderon's conservative party and the Catholic Church have spoken out against the city's actions.

Martha Micher, director of the Mexico City government's Women's Institute, estimates that 200,000 women have illegal abortions in Mexico each year. Micher told the New York Times that botched abortions using herbal remedies and quasi-medical procedures kill 1,500 Mexican women each year and has been the third-leading cause of death for pregnant women in the capital city.

The only Latin American and Caribbean countries with legalized abortion for all women are Cuba and Guyana. Nicaragua, Chile, and El Salvador ban it completely, while other countries make exceptions for cases of rape and when the woman's health is in risk.

In Mexico, abortion is banned except in the case of rape, severe birth defects, or a risk to the woman's health, although some doctors reportedly refuse to perform the procedure even in those cases. The new Mexico City measure would allow for first-trimester abortions, requiring city hospitals to provide it and opening the door for private clinics as well. The procedure will be almost free for poor and insured patients.

Mexico City's independent legislature is dominated by the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, which is at odds on the issue with President Calderon's conservative National Action Party. Supporters of the city's actions hope that it will have wider impact in promoting the decriminalization of abortion elsewhere, while opponents are planning to challenge the new law in Mexico's Supreme Court.

Mexico City Legalizes Abortion

(AP Photo: Rally in Mexico City)