The Mexican National Institute of Health is sponsoring a three-day regional conference for health officials from twenty Latin American countries to discuss the possibility of legalizing abortion. More than 250 health officials who are attending the conference, which began yesterday, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, will hear leaders speak to both sides of the issue. Protestors gathered outside and called on President Vicente Fox to banish conference participants from the country. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, encouraged conference participants in Mexico to seriously consider proposals to legalize abortion in their countries. WHO estimates that 80,000 women die annually from botched, illegal abortions, a great proportion of them from Latin American countries. Reproductive rights advocates, however, believe that this estimate is far too low. WHO representative Alex Mundigo also highlighted the need for women to have a voice in deciding abortion policies. “Abortion needs to be discussed in a public forum so that women, who represent more than half the population, become the ones who decide the fate of legislation dealing with abortion,” said Mundigo.