Abortion rights activists in Mexico were granted a win last month when the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of two women who had been denied abortions.
When two rape survivors, Marimar and Fernanda, tried to get abortions in their respective Mexican states, both were denied abortions. The Supreme Court decision stated that the denial of these women’s right to an abortion was a violation of their human rights.
Getting an abortion in Mexico is a tricky proposition. There is no federal-level policy on abortion, leaving the question of who can access the procedure to each state. A majority of Mexico’s states allow some access to an abortion, but it may only be available to mothers whose lives are in danger. A 2013 law removed provisions that restricted rape victim’s access to an abortion.
Alice Driver, a journalist based in Mexico City, has watched the cultural attitudes change over time but says access to abortion is unfairly practiced.
“In some states, abortion is legal only if the woman’s life is in danger, and in others only if serious birth defects or genetic disorders are identified,” she says. “Mexico City remains the only district that permits abortion on any grounds in the first trimester.”
Access can also depend on one’s class or skin color. Driver says indigenous women will likely have a harder time getting an abortion than lighter skinned Mexicans.
This is a far cry from the experiences of women in urban districts like Mexico City.
Ruiz-Navarro pointed out that some laws put women at greater risk for punishment and thus, discouraged women from seeking abortions. “The doctors, nurses and hospital staff are not sworn to secrecy,” she says. “Sometimes, they’re the ones who turn women into the police for seeking or obtaining an abortion.”
More attention is paid to the policies in countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador, because they are uniformly against the procedure. However, depending on where they live and their socioeconomic status, Mexican women may also suffer the same kind of harsh treatment from judges and law enforcement as in other conservative counties.
“Those of us who live in Mexico know that there is a huge gap between the law and the implementation of the law,” says Driver.
Ruiz-Navarro says many abortion rights activists are looking for a complete law that would protect women throughout Mexico. Groups like “Fondo Maria help women who are not in Mexico City get there for an abortion,” she says.