Commentary Abortion

The MARIA Fund: Supporting Women’s Access to Abortion in Mexico

Rachel Roth

Five years after Mexico City decriminalized first-trimester abortion, the MARIA Fund helps women from other parts of Mexico to access safe abortion care. You can help them.

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 marks the fifth anniversary of legal first trimester abortion in Mexico City. On April 24, 2007, the Mexico City Legislature voted to decriminalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court of Mexico upheld the law in 2008.

Because Mexico City is the third largest city in the world, this policy change benefits hundreds of thousands of women with access to free, legal abortion services. The policy also lays bare a need among women in other parts of the country to travel to the capital to obtain safe and legal abortion care.

This is where the MARIA Fund comes in.

The MARIA Abortion Fund for Social Justice provides direct assistance to women in Mexico who cannot afford a legal abortion. The Fund pays for a range of services, from abortion care itself to travel and lodging, as well as transportation costs for women traveling within Mexico City to reach a provider. The Fund helps to arrange appointments and will accompany women if they wish. The Fund also works with other non-governmental organizations to provide women with spiritual and psychological support.

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The MARIA Fund is a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds and a project of Balance AC, a feminist organization in Mexico. It aims to increase awareness of women’s right to legal abortion and strengthen solidarity among people who support women’s rights in addition to providing direct services.

The MARIA Fund has assisted 1,200 women since launching in May 2009.

Abortion Politics in Mexico

In Mexico, as in all countries where abortion is illegal, women with resources often find a way to terminate their pregnancies safely and women without resources take risks with their lives in order to carry out their decision.

“What we want is not one more death, not here, not anywhere,” explained Leticia Quezada, a member of the Democratic Revolution Party, in her speech in favor of abortion rights. Mexico has 31 states and abortion is illegal in every one of them. Supporters of the decriminalization law in Mexico City hoped that it would inspire similar changes in other jurisdictions, but this has not happened.

Politics and stigma have turned hospitals into extensions of the police instead of refuges for confidential medical care. “Women go to the hospital for many reasons, not only because they get scared, they can have some of the warning signs and go, or they don’t know what to expect, but they should get the attention they need as if it was a miscarriage. Women have been jailed for miscarriages, and the stigmatization of abortion is so intense that medical staff are reporting women even before treating them and they threaten them until they confess that they used miso,” explains Oriana López Uribe, manager of the MARIA Fund. Instead, authorities in some states are now actively prosecuting cases of illegal abortion, which often come to their attention when women go the hospital. Almost 150,000 women were hospitalized for complications following an abortion in 2006, according to estimates by the Guttmacher Institute; this represents a hospitalization rate of about 17 percent.

Miso, short for Misoprostol, is used to safely induce abortions around the world. It is available in pharmacies in Mexico to treat ulcers, and is one of the means women use to give themselves an abortion because medical professionals do not provide this care.

In fact, it is difficult to find safe legal abortion services even in those circumstances where the law permits abortion, such as when a girl or woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape. The MARIA Fund collaborates with other organizations to help women report sexual assaults and try to obtain a legal abortion in their home state if that is what they want to do.

The MARIA Fund works to level the playing field by helping women who live under harsh restrictions obtain legal medical care. Given the stark differences in access to safe abortion throughout the country and the serious risks of illegal abortion, the need for the MARIA Fund is clear.

Learn more or show your support here.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

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