President-elect Vicente Fox, of the Roman Catholic Church-supported National Action Party (PAN), is forced to make clear his position on abortion due to the recent case of Paulina del Carmen. Ms. Carmen, a 14 year-old resident of Guanajuato state who was raped earlier this year in her home, was denied what she thought was her legal right to an abortion. Until recently, Mexico allowed legal access to abortion is cases of rape or where a mother’s life is endangered. Ms. Carmen’s abortion denial marks an unprecedented turn in Mexico’s less than favorable laws governing women’s reproductive health. Health officials for the state who denied Ms. Carmen’s access to abortion have commented that “state citizens have a right life, but no right to an abortion.”
Women’s rights activists were suspicious of Fox’s position on abortion at the outset of the presidential elections that took place in July, but now are more fearful of his ties with the Catholic Church and their role in policy decisions. “This abortion controversy has become something of a thermometer. People see it helping determine if Fox’s victory was for change, or a vote for conservatism,” remarked Martha Perez, member of the Mexico City’s Free Vote Defense Council. Experts estimate that while abortion remains illegal in Mexico, more than 1 million are performed in the country annually and abortion remains the fourth-highest cause of death among Mexican women.