Right-to-Life Amendments Sweep Mexican States

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Right-to-Life Amendments Sweep Mexican States

Angela Castellanos

In 2007 the Mexican Supreme Court upheld a law which decriminalized abortion in Mexico City. Since then, twelve Mexican states have approved constitutional reforms defining personhood as beginning at the moment of conception.

Mexico is now facing a historical legal confrontation over the definition
of the starting point for the right to life. While in 2007 the Supreme Court upheld
a law which decriminalized abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation in Mexico City,
over the past year 12 Mexican states have approved constitutional reforms defining
personhood as beginning at the moment of conception.

Such a definition means that all civil rights have to be protected,
including the right to life, and that, consequently, the termination of pregnancies
will be criminalized in all circumstances.

Mexico’s federal structure allows the Congress of each state to modify
their constitutions independently. Currently the states in which such reform
has been approved are governed by the conservative parties, National Action Party (PAN) and the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

have passed in the states of Morelos, Sonora, Baja California, Chihuahua,
Jalisco, Puebla, Colima, Durango, Nayarit, Quintana Roo, Campeche, and

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Mexican women did not keep quiet.

On February 17, the Congress of Colima approved a constitutional
amendment which establishes that the state will protect the right to life from
the moment of conception. Sixty-seven women denounced this amendment on May
15, arguing constitutional fraud, claiming that the President of the Congress
of Colima did not observe proper legal proceedings.

Moreover, these women argued that the new statement ignores and violates
fundamental rights recognized in the Federal Constitution, such their rights to
health, to gender equality, andto freedom of faith, as well as their sexual and
reproductive rights, among others.

The legal measure submitted by the 67 women was accepted by the local
judges, and therefore a judgment process will be opened. According to the
reproductive health advocacy group Grupo de Información en
Reproducción Elegida
(Group of Information on Reproduction Choice, GIRE), in
this process, the Congress from the state of Colima has to explain to the
federal judiciary the reasons to modify the constitution and respond the
accusations of fraud, while the 67 women can submit cases and opinions of
experts in order to demonstrate the reform abrogates fundamental rights.

As for the constitutional fraud, the women argued that the amendment was
published by the Official Journal "El Estado de Colima" on March 21, 2009, which
did not observe the 30 day approval period during which municipalities can
respond to amendments.

The 67 women consider the constitutional reform is discriminatory,
since women are disproportionately affected by the imposition of a forced pregnancy
and the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy.

Some certain consequences are illegal and unsafe abortions. According
to a study presented in
2008 by the Colegio de México, the Population Council and the Guttmacher
Institute, an estimated 880,000 abortions are carried out annually, an
average of 33 for every 1,000 women a year.

Many such abortions are performed in unsafe conditions, with the risk of women’s

While legislators are promoting constitutional reforms across Mexico to
avoid laws that would decriminalize abortions, such the one approved in Mexico
City, public opinion is increasingly in favor of decriminalization.

The Population Council carried
out two public opinion surveys among residents of Mexico City on 2007 and 2008,
just before and one year after the passage of the abortion law.

The surveys found that "there were significant increases in support for
the law being extended to other parts of Mexico; a woman being the one to make
the final decision about abortion; and women from other states and those under
aged 18 having the right to legal abortion in the capital."

For women activists, having a national capital where the abortion is
legal and many other states where it is illegal is openly discriminatory,
because it means to Mexican women are divided into those of the
"first class and others of second one."

According to Mexican academics quoted by the Press Agency of CIMAC, in some
cases, the reforms do not clarify topics related to embryonic research, in-vitro
fertilization, or IUDs, which according to some of such amendments is an
abortive method, and therefore it has to be banned, or examine the negative
consequences for women.

For GIRE and academics, the constitutional reforms are reactions
against the law of abortion ruling in Mexico City,
and are impromptu amendments which did not take into account the international
pacts signed by Mexico,
such the CEDAW.

Looking at the international level, one can see in these reforms the
pro-life trend currently touching Central America and the Caribbean.