August 11, 2000
By Enrique Davis-Mazlum
Guanajuato, Mexico -- Guanajuato's local congress modified an article of the Penal Code that allowed women to have an abortion if they were raped. There was heated debate on the floor between PAN (National Action Party) and PRI (Institutionalized Revolutionary Party), PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) and PT (Labour Party).
PAN has the majority in the local congress and is considered the right wing party of Mexico, even though Luis Felipe Bravo Mena, PAN's National President says that they are a Center-Left Party.
After a long debate the new law was passed 17 in favor and 16 against. In order for this new law to become effective October 1st it needs the approval of Governor Ramon Martin Huerta who is also a member of PAN.
Abortion in Mexico is illegal except in cases were a women is raped, and that is why Mexican officials fear that other states who have a majority of PAN members in their local legislatures will follow Guanajuato's initiative or conduct themselves like the State of Baja California did last year.
A year ago Paulina Ramirez a 14-year-old girl from the State of Baja California was raped and went to her local authorities and was hospitalized. The doctor did not perform the abortion and went to the Catholic Church. Paulina was pressured not to have an abortion by groups like Pro Vida (Pro Life), members of the Catholic Church, and State Attorney Juan Manuel Salazar of Baja California. Now that Paulina is a mother of Isaac who was born on April 13, says that it is wrong for authorities to make decisions on a women's right to choose.
There were other groups that protested in Guanajuato and in Mexico City. One of the many people that were protesting outside Guanajuato's local congress was Paulina's mom Maria Elena Jacinto. Maria Elena was holding a sign that said, "I am Paulina's mom, the girl that was raped and forced to have a baby".
Jacinto said that there are many other Paulina's out there and making it illegal for them to have an abortion would be wrong. There are girls out there who will have an abortion whether it is legal or illegal if they are raped. It is better to have rules and doctors who can supervise the abortion and make sure that everything goes right. It is outrages that a girl or women gets raped and is penalized to have the kid by law or will be sent to jail three to eight years.
In Mexico City Martha Lamas a well known activist along with other women's groups protested outside PAN's National Headquarters and gave several press conferences on why this new law in Guanajuato will not solve the problem but worsen it.
According to Lamas this new law does not allow the damage to be fixed and makes the incident of rape a secondary issue.
One of the biggest fears of women's groups is that President Elect Vicente Fox will be in favor of these measures since he had said during his campaign that he would defend life from its conception.
After a meeting on August 8, 2000 with Governor Ramon Martin Huerta, local Congressman Ricardo Torres Origel, Coordinator of the Panista Fraction in Guanajuato's Congress, said that they will introduce new modifications to the Penal Code that were accepted this past Thursday.
The amendments to the Penal Code will be; if a women is raped, she must: 1) file a complaint with Ministerio Publico (local police); 2) be submitted to a series of health and psychological test; 3) get the authorization of a judge to have an abortion and; 4) will only face a maximum jail sentence of three years. Since the PAN still has a majority these amendments will most likely pass this Wednesday.
Enrique Davis-Mazlum, attends ITAM in Mexico City, studing for his Masters in Public Policy.