Abortion policy grounds on which abortion is permitted

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Grounds on which abortion is permitted:
To save the life of the woman Yes

To preserve physical health No*

To preserve mental health No*

Rape or incest Yes

Foetal impairment No*

Economic or social reasons No*

Available on request No
Additional requirements:
Under most state provisions on abortion, legal abortions must generally be performed during the first 12 weeks (or 90 days) of gestation. Except in emergency cases, all induced abortions must be performed by a physician whose opinion on the necessity of the abortion is corroborated by another physician. Consent of the woman, or in certain instances (minors, etc.), that of her husband, parents or guardians, is required before the abortion is performed.

*Abortion law in Mexico is determined at the state level. The grounds checked refer only to the abortion law of the Federal District; some other states allow abortions to be performed on grounds (2), (3), (5) and (6).


Government view of fertility level: Too high

Government intervention concerning fertility level: To lower
Government policy on contraceptive use: Direct support provided
Percentage of currently married women using

modern contraception (aged 15-49, 1995): 58

Total fertility rate (1995-2000): 2.8
Age-specific fertility rate (per 1,000 women aged 15-19, 1995-2000): 69
Government has expressed particular concern about:

Morbidity and mortality resulting from induced abortion Yes

Complications of childbearing and childbirth Yes
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births, 1990):

National 110

Central America 140
Female life expectancy at birth (1995-2000): 75.5


Although efforts were made during the 1980s to liberalize abortion, the Mexican Criminal Code for the Federal District (Decree of 2 January 1931, as amended) remains in force. It applies to offences committed in the Federal District of Mexico and to all offences that fall within the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts throughout Mexico. Other offences are governed by the provisions of state criminal codes.

Under Articles 329-334 of the Code of the Federal District, the performance of abortions is illegal except when caused by the negligence of the pregnant woman during pregnancy, when the pregnancy is the result of rape, or when the continuation of the pregnancy endangers the life of the pregnant woman. Before performing an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman, a physician must obtain the opinion of another physician unless there is a danger in delay. In 1976, the Federal Ministry of Public Health issued regulations that expressly prohibit qualified lay birth attendants from inducing an abortion.
Articles 320-332 of the Code set out varying degrees of punishment for the illegal performance of abortion. They provide that any person performing an abortion with the consent of the woman is subject to one to three years’ imprisonment and without her consent, to three to six years’ imprisonment. If the abortion is brought about by physical or moral violence, the person performing it is subject to six to eight years’ imprisonment. In addition to these penalties, a physician, surgeon, or midwife who performs an illegal abortion is subject to two to five years’ suspension from exercising his or her profession.
A woman who willfully induces her own abortion or consents to its being induced is subject to one to five years’ imprisonment. However, if she is a woman of good reputation, she has hidden her pregnancy and the pregnancy is the result of illegitimate relations, the term of imprisonment is reduced to six months to a year.
Many of the abortion provisions of the state criminal codes are nearly identical to those of the Criminal Code of the Federal District. However, some states have more liberal abortion provisions. For example, in addition to the permitted grounds for abortion enumerated in the Criminal Code of the Federal District, certain states allow abortions to be performed for the following reasons: when the pregnancy results from artificial insemination neither requested nor assented to by the woman, provided that the abortion is carried out within the first 90 days of pregnancy (article 219 of the Criminal Code of Chihuahua, 18 February 1987); when there is good reason to believe that the unborn child will suffer from severe physical or mental disabilities of genetic or congenital origin (article 293 of the Criminal Code of Coahuila, 19 September 1982); when the woman’s health would be seriously jeopardized by continuation of the pregnancy (article 229 of the Criminal Code of Jalisco, 2 August 1982); or when an abortion is performed for serious and substantial economic reasons in cases where the woman has at least three children (article 391 of the Social Welfare Code of Yucatn, 27 November 1987).
In contrast, a few states allow abortions only on more restrictive grounds. Article 228 of the Criminal Code of Guanajuato (27 February 1987) and article 342 of the Criminal Code of Querétaro (18 July 1987), for example, authorize abortions to be performed only when the pregnancy is a result of rape. In certain states, abortions permitted in cases of rape must be performed within the first 90 days of pregnancy.
Despite the restrictive nature of the law in Mexico, abortion is widely practised, owing in part to the liberal interpretation of the medical indications for abortion. According to estimates from several studies conducted in the early 1980s, each year approximately 800,000 illegal abortions were induced, and each year
about 24 per cent of the women of reproductive age were estimated to have undergone an abortion. Although more legal abortions occurred in urban areas among middle-class women, a higher proportion of poor, illiterate women and women from rural areas obtained illegal abortions. Another study found that, at about the
same period, about 65 out of 100,000 annual maternal deaths were due to illegally induced abortions performed in unsanitary conditions and by unqualified personnel.
The Government of Mexico has expressed serious concern about unplanned pregnancies, particularly among adolescents, and about the relatively high maternal mortality and morbidity associated with illegally induced abortion. The Decree of 25 April 1987 revised and amended the General Law on Health, underlining the Government’s efforts to encourage greater contraceptive use, particularly among adolescents. Pressure to reform abortion laws has also been increasing along with the growth of the women’s movement in Mexico.
A law passed in October 1990 in the state of Chiapas broadened the indications for the performance of legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It allowed abortions to be performed on medical grounds, in cases of rape or genetic defect, for family planning purposes agreed upon by a couple, and when the pregnant woman was single. The new law was, however, regarded as “revolutionary” because, in effect, it allowed abortion on request early in pregnancy, a situation existing nowhere else in Mexico. For that reason, it was denounced by both the Catholic Church and by conservative political groups. In December 1991, the Chiapas legislature voted to suspend this attempt at liberalizing abortion law in Mexico. Since then, the abortion debate in Mexico has intensified.

Source: The Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For additional sources, see list of references.

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