Mexico City Will Legalize Abortion

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 5:20 PM PDT

Mexico City has a particularly left-leaning legislature this session—thanks, in large part, to increasingly open elections in the country, which have curtailed the power of the PRI party that ruled the country in a "soft dictatorship" for 70 years.

Mexico City's legislature made headlines earlier this month when it legalized same-sex marriages. Today, the New York Times reports that the legislature is set to approve a law legalizing abortion for any reason in the first trimester, and the capital's mayor has said he'll sign it. In Latin America, which is predominantly Catholic, only Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guyana have similar laws. The procedure would be free at public health clinics.

Mexico City's 8 million residents are sharply divided along class lines, with between 20 and 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Sex education is nonexistent, and at least 110,000 women a year seek illegal abortions.

However, Catholicism still runs deep, and the clergy and some citizens passionately object to the pending law:

Víctor Hugo Círigo Vásquez, the majority leader of the Assembly, said many of the 34 legislators from his Party of the Democratic Revolution who support the measure had received threatening calls and messages on their cellphones, as well as nasty e-mail. They were told they would be excommunicated or go to hell if they approved the law.

"There is a media lynching campaign that has been orchestrated by clerical groups from the very, very far right," he said. He added, "It's a black campaign that's coming hard."

Nonetheless, legislators are standing firm.

The law may have the unintended side-effect of increasing internal immigration to Mexico City which, like the United States, is a magnet for the rural poor, who come to work as maids or drivers or in factories. The law would legalize abortion only within city limits, thereby providing yet another incentive for the rural poor to make their way to the capital.

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