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Control and Coercion: The Threats to Abortion Rights in Mexico

Written by Marcy Bloom for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Sometimes the struggle for the reproductive justice and the dignity and freedom of women and girls takes on especially compelling and tragic dimensions. This is one of them.

Recently, the heart-rending case of a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant as a result of rape by her stepfather in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula (also home to the popular resort of Cancun) was made public by the media. According to GIRE-Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida, whose National Lawyers’ Network for the Defense of Reproductive Choice contacted the girl and her mother, it emerged that they had apparently received biased information from authorities about their rights and access to abortion.

Abortion is highly restricted in all of Mexico (except for Mexico City), but it is supposed to be available in cases of certain situations such as rape. However, it is very common for state health and legal officials to blatantly ignore the law, lie to women, and deny women and girls their rights. This latest shocking but tragically frequent outcome in Quintana Roo has brought to public attention the outrageous incidents of sexual violence that shape the lives of young girls in that state: in fact, 881 girls became pregnant as a result of rape in that state alone in 2009.

These are not isolated incidents. As it stands now, this girl and her mother have decided to continue the pregnancy, even after receiving objective information from GIRE, and the case has become a symbol of the violent context and denial of women’s and girls’ rights that exist in Quintana Roo and throughout Mexico. The girl’s stepfather has been arrested, the child is in the custody of child protective services, and she is now close to 19 weeks pregnant (her pregnancy was not discovered and diagnosed until a month ago).

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