MEXICO CITY – Six women are serving long prison terms in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato after being convicted of homicide for terminating their pregnancies, activists said Wednesday.
The women, all poor and with little education, have served between three and eight years of the 25- to 30-year sentences handed down by state courts.
“We’re going to put in direct appeals to the federal judiciary,” Veronica Cruz, the director of the Centro Las Libres, which provides assistance to the women and to another 160 Guanajuato women facing abortion-related charges, told Efe.
A woman who had received a similar sentence to those that are being served by the six women for murder was released recently thanks to the intercession of Cruz’s organization.
Of these seven cases, one was a spontaneous abortion, two others were undertaken because of rape and the rest were for accidental pregnancies, Cruz said.
“All the men that got them pregnant abandoned them and accused them” of getting the abortions, said the activist.
Since the beginning of the decade, more than 40 women have been put on trial for abortion, which is punishable by up to three years in prison under the Guanajuato penal code.
“The government always has denied that it imprisoned people for the crime of abortion. We had to go from prison to prison to verify it,” said the Centro Las Libres director.
The legislation regarding abortion varies in Mexico’s 32 separate jurisdictions. While in Mexico City it is legal, some states continue to treat abortion as a criminal offense.
Even so, federal law includes some circumstances under which any woman, regardless of where she may live, can have an abortion, namely in the case of rape or risk to her life because of the pregnancy.
In recent years – during which the right-wing National Action Party has governed the country – the conditions under which women can have abortions have become more difficult.
Pro-life groups have harshly criticized the law decriminalizing abortion approved by the capital with the support of leftist Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.
Conservative-led Guanajuato was the only state in the country that refused to promulgate a law against gender violence, as had been federally mandated.
“It was said that violence against women in Guanajuato doesn’t exist and that (such a law) was not necessary,” Cruz said. Some years ago, she noted, the authorities tried to eliminate rape as a justifying factor for having an abortion but the opposition of activists prevented that.
Guanajuato – with Mexico’s highest rate of teen pregnancy – refuses to teach sex education in the schools.
The mayor of Guanajuato city, Eduardo Romero, also tried to prohibit passionate kissing in public, but criticism leveled at that move made him do an about-face and declare the city the “kissing capital.” EFE