Mexican Women Fight “Personhood” Laws

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Mexican Women Fight “Personhood” Laws

Angela Castellanos

Earlier this month, 150 Mexican women from the state of Morelos asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), review constitutional reforms defining personhood as beginning at the moment of conception.

Earlier this month, 150
Mexican women from the state of Morelos filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human
(IACHR), asking the tribunal to analyze Morelo’s constitutional
reform which defined personhood as beginning at the moment of conception, and
to declare Mexico as responsible for the violation of human’s rights of women.

Over the last 15 months, 16 Mexican states have approved
constitutional reforms defining personhood as beginning at the moment of
conception, which means that all civil rights have to be protected, including
the right to life, and that, consequently, the legal termination of pregnancies
will not be allowed.

In late 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a law, which
decriminalized abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation in Mexico City. For some
women’s organizations and academics, the constitutional reforms are reactions
against the law of abortion ruling in Mexico City.

Mexico’s federal structure allows the Congress of each state
to modify their constitutions and Penal Codes independently, but reforms cannot
contradict the National Constitution nor the National Penal Code.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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The reform of the local Constitution, approved on November
11 2008

and published the 11th of December in the official journal
“Tierra y Libertad”, states that the “in the state of Morelos it is recognized
that all human beings have the right to judicial protection of their lives from
the moment of their conception”.

According to the reproductive health advocacy group Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida
(Group of Information on Reproduction Choice, GIRE), who is supporting the
petition before the IACHR, “this reform infringes on the human rights of women
regarding their reproductive autonomy, health, life and freedom”.

“None of the authority of the Mexican State nor of Morelos’
federal state has contested the constitutional reforms using the constitutional
control mechanisms, therefore one can affirm that Mexico has neglected its duty
of efficiently guaranteeing the human rights of women”.

The women who filed the petition are represented by GIRE, Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos
and Centro de Análisis e Investigación.
They also argued that the constitutional reforms are not observing
international treaties signed by Mexico, such the American Convention on Human
Rights and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication
of Violence against women, known as Convention of Belém do Pará. 

According to the petition, the constitutional reform
infringes the rights to: a decent life in which women can choose their life’s
project, a personal integrity, a health protection, a private life (freedom of
conscience and thought), an equal protection before law without discrimination,
and the right to a life free of violence.

In most of the Mexican states, therapeutic abortion is
authorized in cases of rape, when the women’s health is in risk, and when the
fetus suffers a severe malformation. 
Out of these cases, the majority of Mexican states establish in their
Penal Codes sanctions to women who choose to end their pregnancies, even with
several years of prison.

In the state of Veracruz, for instance, women can be
sentenced from six months to four years in jail.  in Jalisco, from four months to a year, in Guanajuato, from
six months to three years, and in Baja California from two months to two years.

The petition also denounces the Penal Code reform of Morelos
which authorizes a psychological treatment as an alternative sanction to prison
or fine.

In a press release, more than twenty Mexican NGOs supporting
the petition pointed out that “this option offends women’s dignity as it
assumes women as psychologically affected just because they choose to end an
unwanted pregnancy and appeal to their health and reproductive rights”.

For the women petitioners, the constitutional reforms
contravene the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, which
guarantees that “all persons have the right to choose in a free, responsible and
informed way the number of children they will have and when they will have
them”; and which states that “all persons have the right to health protection”.

The IACHR has already received the petition and it is studying
its admission. If  the
international commission accepts it and determines that such constitutional
reforms violate human rights, it could lead to a recommendation for the Mexican
State to annul such reforms.

For GIRE and Catholics for Choice, the interruption of
pregnancies should be considered a health matter, not as part of the Penal