Mexico City backs abortion as Vatican loses its influence
IN a landmark decision Mexico City's Legislative Assembly has voted to legalise abortion in this deeply Catholic capital, sending shockwaves through the country and the whole of Latin America.
After a fiery debate that lasted seven hours, the assembly voted 46 to 19 in favour of legalising abortion, with one abstention, whilst protesters chanted outside the building.
"Murderers! Murderers! Excommunicate them all!" screamed protesters.
Previously, abortion was allowed in extreme cases only, if the pregnancy was the result of rape, the foetus was severely deformed, or the mother's life was in danger. Mexico City now joins a very short list of places in Latin America where abortion can be performed up to 12 weeks, including the countries of Cuba, Guyana and the US territory of Puerto Rico.
Surveys conducted in Mexico City before the vote showed 56 per cent of the capital in favour of allowing abortion, with many being swung by the fact that there are up to 200,000 illegal abortions performed in the country every year, with some 2,000 women dying of complications after bungled back-street operations.
The Catholic Church, whilst forbidden under the Mexican constitution from engaging in politics, made known its opposition to the bill, with Pope Benedict XVI sending a letter last week to Mexican bishops ordering them to oppose it. Monsignor Felipe Aguirre Franco, the archbishop of Acapulco, said that the legislators who voted in favour of abortion would be excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
Church supporters as well as the ruling right-wing National Action Party (PAN) of President Felipe Calderon are planning to challenge the vote in the law courts. President Calderon remained silent, although privately he is known to be a practising Catholic. His wife, Margarita Zavala, was not so reticent, attending anti-abortion protests.
What the Catholic Church most fears is that Mexico City's decision will spread across the country and into other parts of Latin America.
Whilst the Church still holds sway in Latin America, it is clear that the tide is turning in favour of abortion and liberalisation.
HOW LATIN AMERICA DIFFERS
ABORTION during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is now permitted in Mexico City, Cuba, Guyana and Puerto Rico
Abortion is outlawed in Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador - under any circumstances. The rest of Latin America allows abortion in only three special cases: if the pregnancy was the result of rape, the foetus is severely deformed, or the mother's life is in danger.
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