Hiding Under the Bed Is Not the Answer

Abortion and Maternal Mortality in Mexico

On 13 April 2011 activists celebrated the fourth anniversary of the legalisation of Abortion in Mexico’s Federal District, better known as Mexico City (México DF). The voluntary interruption of pregnancy is not permitted in any other Mexican states except in special circumstances, such as rape or if the mother’s life is in danger. However, it is extremely difficult to obtain an abortion even in these cases, as the case of Paulina Ramírez Jacinta illustrated in 1999 [1]. As I have had cause to note in this blog [2] [3] [4], the practices and attitudes prevalent amongst healthcare workers and in the Mexican judicial system as a whole, ensure that any pregnancy that ends before it comes to term is looked at with suspicion. Women have been and are being prosecuted after suffering miscarriage or stillbirth. Worse still, they are usually charged with murder rather than abortion, as this allows the courts to impose more severe penalties on the “offenders”; usually prison terms of 20 years or more. This obviously discourages women from seeking medical attention when they suffer a miscarriage.

As elsewhere, the hostility to abortion in Mexico is linked to opposition to contraception and the unwillingness to condone any sexual behaviour that does not seek reproduction. This is especially true in relation to adolescents. As a result, Mexico is faces the following situation:

1) There are an estimated 102, 000 to 553, 100 abortions every year.

2) Nationally, one woman dies every nine days as a result of undergoing an unsafe abortion. In DF where abortion is legal, this figure is one woman every 52 days or 7 every year.

3)83% of public hospital admissions for female teenagers in the 10 to 19 age-range are due to complications relating to pregnancy.

4) 27.9% of this group are girls from the 10 to 14 age-range. This accounts for one in three of every hospital admission for girls aged 10 to 14.

5) In 2009, the fertility-rate for female adolescents in the 15 to 19 age-range was 70. 4 children for every 1,000 inhabitants.

6) Maternal mortality is the fourth cause of death for women in Mexico (after traffic accidents, murder and suicide).

Maternal mortality is particularly prevalent in the poorer rural regions of Mexico: the southern states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas play host 20% of all maternal deaths, for example (see my post here); although, the state with the worst track record is that of president hopeful Enrique Peña Nieto: the central State of Mexico (see other posts about Peña Nieto here and here). The hot spots of adolescent pregnancy can be found in the states boarding the USA, especially in the border towns with large migrant and would-be migrant populations. In Tamaulipas, for example, 15% of all pregnancies are to adolescent mothers; a disturbing number of whom are girls under 15, while some are as young as 12.

[1] Paulina Ramírez Jacinta was 14 when she was raped in the State of Baja California in 1999. Her parents reported the crime and obtained legal permission for their daughter to have an abortion. However, they could not find a doctor or hospital ready to perform the procedure.  As a result of the complaint made to the International Court of Human Rights, the Mexican Health Service has issued a directive (no. 046) which obliges health workers to provide an abortion to those who are legally entitled to one. See link here for more details.

[2] Mexico continues to lock up women for abortion and miscarriage

[3]  30 Women including a 12 year old girl prosecuted for procuring abortions in Puebla

[4] Women imprisoned for miscarriages in Mexico

Filed under: Feminism, Women's Right to Choose, , , ,

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