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Catholics for a Free Choice Applauds Mexico City Vote on Abortion Legislation

April 25, 2007

Yesterday, in a watershed event for Mexico and nations throughout Latin America, the Mexico City legislature voted to legalize abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. Many feminist groups, women’s rights advocates, and committed politicians fought hard for the passage of the bill, despite threats from Catholic bishops that such actions would result in their excommunication. While abortion is currently legal in Mexico in cases of rape and for fetal abnormality or when a woman’s life is threatened by pregnancy, it is often difficult to obtain. This bill marks the first time abortion has ever been legal on request in Mexico.

Estimates show that up to 500,000 illegal abortions occur in Mexico every year. While women and families with financial means may go to the U.S. or to a private clinic to obtain a safe abortion, poor women often risk their lives to end an unintended pregnancy. As a result, unsafe abortions have been the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Mexico City, and the fifth leading cause nationwide. Over the last decade, official statistics show that 1,500 women lost their lives after a botched abortion, although the real number is thought to be much higher, given that many doctors and hospitals do not report abortion-related deaths for fear of scrutiny or prosecution.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said, “This vote offers health and hope to women throughout Mexico. The ability to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is a basic right that should be accorded to all women, regardless of financial status or geography. The Mexico City legislature understood this and did the right thing: They chose to protect women’s health and respect women’s decisions. Now, we hope that other states and countries in Latin America will follow in their footsteps.”

María Consuelo Mejía, director of CFFC’s sister organization in Mexico, Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics for the Right to Decide), which campaigned in support of the change in the law, said in a statement,

“This is a triumph for democracy and a sign that society recognizes women’s legitimate right to decide about motherhood. One of the most important aspects of this outcome is the confirmation of the separation of church and state in Mexico and the fact that the Catholic hierarchy is no longer able to use threats of excommunication as a way to impose on public policy. CDD was able to demonstrate the diversity of positions within the Catholic church on the issue of abortion, demand a respectful and tolerant exchange of ideas, as well as refute threats of excommunication by revealing what canon law actually says about abortion.

“We are conscious that this achievement marks the beginning of a process for women to have real access to safe and legal abortion services and to exercise their right to decide. This could not have been achieved without the efforts of thousands of women who have been claiming this right for thirty years, women such as Marta Lamas, founder of the Informational Group on Reproductive Choice (GIRE).”

For more information, please contact Erin Smith, Press Officer of Catholics for a Free Choice, at +1 (202) 986-6093, or by email.

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