Women’s interpretations of the right to legal abortion in Mexico City: citizenship, experience and clientelism
Ana Amucha´stegui* and Edith Flores Department of Education and Communication, Universidad Auto´noma Metropolitana-Xochimilco,
Me´xico City, Mexico (Received 1 May 2011; ﬁnal version received 20 August 2012)
In April 2007, after a period of intense social debate, the Mexico City Legal Assembly legalized abortion during the ﬁrst 12 weeks of pregnancy, which was an unprecedented development in women’s rights in Mexico. Within the context of a proliferation of public discourses about women’s citizenship rights changes in women’s social status in Mexico, this article explores the extent to which the newly legalized character of abortion is interpreted by women as a right. Drawing on 24 interviews with women who had a legal termination of pregnancy between 2008 and 2009, this research shows that legalization opens up new and complex relationships between women as subjects of rights and the state. Such relationships are expressed as three discursive ﬁgures: legal abortion (1) as a concession from the government, (2) as ‘excessive’ tolerance by the state, and (3) as a right to be protected and guaranteed. The analysis shows that women’s interpretations of the right to legal abortion are mediated by profound transformations, which Mexican society is currently undergoing. These include changes related to a shift from a clientist political culture to one more framed in terms of citizenship, the subjective effects of family planning policies, and their ambivalent relationships with Catholic notions of women and motherhood, and the effects of feminist discourses of women’s citizenship, abortion, and reproductive rights. Keywords: legal abortion; citizenship; women’s rights; Mexico
The process of legalization of abortion: the political dispute In April 2007, the Mexico City Federal District Legislative Assembly decriminalized the termination of pregnancy during the ﬁrst 12weeks, and instructed the localMinistry ofHealth to provide free and safe abortion services.1 For the ﬁrst time inMexican history, womenwere able to seek legal abortions at public health institutions without the need for judicial proceedings. Abortion ceased to be a crime and became a right available to any woman who requested it in Mexico City, within the period set by the law and by April 2012, roughly 78,544 women had undergone free legal termination of pregnancy (LTP; GIRE 2012).