For many people, the drama surrounding the nomination of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court has more to do with the continuity of the landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion ruling than an alleged case of sexual abuse 35 years ago. However, in Mexico, and Jalisco especially, the struggle for the legalization of abortion still has a long way to run.
Last week in Guadalajara, a large contingent of women participated in a march demanding the decriminalization of abortion. Decked out in green neckchiefs, pounding drums and garrafones and carrying a diverse range of placards, the women gathered in the Parque Morelos to make their way along Calzada Independencia and Avenida Juarez, before ending with a meeting at the Andador Escorza beside the University of Guadalajara rectory.
The choice of location was pertinent. A recent case of alleged sexual abuse against a university student by an academic had enraged the student body. This came on the heels of an investigation by researchers at the university that indicated 17.4 percent of young women under the age of 15 had experienced some kind of sexual abuse. The number of high school girls reporting similar acts rose to 50 percent, the study showed.
Speakers at the meeting highlighted the public health hazards that women face in Mexico by having to resort to illegal abortions. The strict laws, they said, gave rapists and sexual abusers carte blanche to behave however they wanted.
Although Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that women who become pregnant after being raped have the right to abortions, many states have not amended their constitutions to reflect this.
Only Mexico City, the most liberal metropolis in the country, has legalized abortion completely. Since 2008, women and girls there have access to legal abortion for any reason through the first trimester and without charge through the public health program.
On the other side of the coin, 18 states in Mexico have it written into their constituents that life starts at conception and the fetus has “the right to life.”
According to one report, 625 women were prosecuted for having abortions in Mexico between 2015 and 2017. It is estimated around 750,000 illegal abortions were carried out during this period.