If Mexico City is the only place to access abortions legally in the country, where are the other Mexican women going?
According to the Mexico City Health Secretary, between 2007 and 2017, women between 18 and 24 years old seek abortions most frequently. Of these women, 71% come from Mexico City and the Metropolitan Area, leaving only 29% of the women coming from the other states.
So, what is happening in the rest of the country? Where and how are these women ending their pregnancies?
Since 2014, there have been 182 registered deaths because of malpractice performing illegal abortions. Women in states where abortion is still not legal are forced to go to clandestine clinics – jeopardizing their own lives. Before 2007, when abortion became legal in Mexico City, 6 out of 10 women died because of unsafe conditions while terminating their pregnancies.
Unfortunately, this is a matter of social class too. People who come from a certain social background are unlikely to find themselves turning to an abortion performed with a clothespin and needles. Considering that 45.5% of the Mexican population lives in poverty, access to abortion services becomes a major public health issue.
There have been many bills presented in Congress regarding legal and safe ways to address the problem nationwide, but they don’t pass because conservative legislators quickly dismiss the proposals. People in office need to acknowledge this as a public health issue. What we are up against is indeed a life or death situation.
In Mexico, a very religious country, the idea of voluntarily ending a pregnancy is still stigmatized. Abortion is illegal in most states; in 29 of the 32 states there are penalties for women who seek abortions, including incarceration, fines, community work and psychological therapy.
Having an unwanted pregnancy is very common, and women should have the right to choose what’s best for their own bodies. Experts have proven that in countries where abortions are legal, both maternal deaths and abortion rates are lower.
In Mexico, legal abortion, clinics, and follow-ups from clinicians would provide solutions for vulnerable women with poor health care access. The fact that this is still a centralized option, available exclusively in Mexico City, only intensifies the problem, leaving women from other states vulnerable when they make the journey all the way to the capital. If legal abortions were available for every single woman in Mexico, we would eliminate the fifth leading cause of maternal deaths in the nation.
On a national scale, consider joining the cause by demanding that our policymakers legalize safe and quality procedures for women throughout Mexico and Latin America. Individually, you can support NGOs that don’t received government funds. Here is a list of organizations in Mexico and Latin America:
We can all play a part in protecting health care access and bringing the world one step closer towards ending deaths because of abortions.