The right to choose is not enough – Mexico DF

view of Mexico DFAbortion is now legal in Mexico City, but efforts to make sure all women are able to access their right to choose have run into problems, reports the New York Times.

It’s really interesting (and fantastic) that right from the offset, Mexico DF placed an emphasis on legal abortions for all, not just wealthy citizens who probably already had ways and means to access terminations in relative safety. Access, not just a theoretical choice.

However, it’s not been a smooth ride:

Since the city’s legislature voted for the law in April 2007, some 85 percent of the gynecologists in the city’s public hospitals have declared themselves conscientious objectors. And women complain that even at those hospitals that perform abortions, staff members are often hostile, demeaning them and throwing up bureaucratic hurdles.

The city government took action:

After so many doctors refused to perform abortions, the city hired four new doctors to help handle the load at the 14 city hospitals where the city initially offered abortions. Now 35 doctors offer the procedure in city medical facilities.

Because the city determined its service was not fast enough, it has trained doctors to use abortion pills when possible and perform speedier surgical procedures.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Unfortunately, the NYT reports that women are still having to turn to backstreet abortion, in the face of lack of facilities and hostile, abusive attitudes at clinics which do offer terminations:

Alejandra, 24, who works for the city’s women’s institute, said that when she went to get an abortion last year at a public hospital, a social worker there told her that she would need to pay for her own ultrasound, which is supposed to be free, and that she would need to be accompanied by a family member. Scared off by the description of the risks and the procedure, she fled the hospital.

She ended up taking pills to induce an abortion, without seeing a doctor, and developed a serious infection. She asked that only her first name be used because she said she recently received a death threat for speaking at a city event celebrating the new law. Another woman, a 27-year-old high school literature teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her friends told her that they were treated like prostitutes at public hospitals. She also took abortion pills but said they were ineffective, requiring her to visit a doctor to complete her abortion.

(Via Reproductive Rights Prof Blog)

Photo by Teseum, shared under a Creative Commons license