MEXICO.– Martha Patricia Mendez writhed in pain: endless spasms that seemed to rip her waist, belly, legs and especially her hips, similar to childbirth, except there was no child within her. Her pain was that from suffering an abortion.
Then, everything calmed down and she became aware of her surroundings as she lay on the stretcher. Around her, she could see furious men and women who questioned her on the source of the abortion pill. Why did you do it? When did you plan out the evil task?Who helped you? They all asked.
In the turmoil, a nurse came over and spat out a sentence to Martha Patricia’s face that she would never forget, not even now that time has passed, that she has empowered herself and now that she stands, without fear, before the auditorium of the Institute of Legal Research (IIJ) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico to fight against the criminalization of women who terminate their pregnancies.
“You killed a living being,” the nurse judged her. And she showed her the fetus without ever listening to the patient.
That worker was unaware that, just three months prior, Martha Patricia went to the doctor in the same hospital of the Mexican Social Security Institute, in the port of Veracruz, a specialist who mistook her pregnancy with gastritis and prescribed her medication.
Maybe if that nurse would had found out that the then-19-year-old was scared because she wanted to have a profession and not a baby, that the relationship that had conceived the baby had ended for lack of love, and that she was malnourished and psychologically shattered.
But she knew nothing. She just pulled at IV attached to Martha Patricia arm, so that it would inflame her veins and hurt her, all in reproach for what her situation entailed — the Federal Penal Code, applicable to public hospitals, punishes women who miscarry with up to five years in prison.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) is spinning the issue of declaring the criminalization of abortion unconstitutional, a demand from organizations for women rights, since the Congress of Mexico City declared legal the abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation, in 2007.
Each year more than 130,000 abortions are legally practiced.
In the last debate (closed on Wednesday) the highest court declined to rule, “momentarily”, on abortion in federal hospitals and left the women again at the mercy of state laws, something that came as a surprise to jurists like Diego Valades, director of IIJ.
Valades listened, word by word, to Martha Patricia’s testimony and wondered, in surprise: to him, the sanction of abortion goes beyond the limits of the private to the public and that “cannot be allowed in a democracy.” Who makes the painful decision to terminate a pregnancy can have neither public nor moral sanction, he says.
“Martha Patricia’s case represents today the paradigm of a democracy.”
Veronica Cruz, founder of the civil organization Las Libres, supports him, in front of the same audience and, after seeing the girl crying while remembering the details. When the prosecutorial team arrived at the hospital and took her to testify and forced her to go to the “Christian burial” of the fetus and to listen to criticism of his former partner and family.
“She was alone because her family lives six hours away and I arrived without knowing because a person from Mexico City contacted me on Facebook and alerted me on the case. I was traveling from Guanajuato there to accompany her and, as while I was going there, (it is 12 hours away) I told her by phone to make sure she was not going to be charged with homicide, ‘look, look, it only has to say abortion.’”
The details of the case addressed by Las Libres are a preamble, an introduction to what comes because Martha Patricia’s case appeared before the Supreme Court as a second attack by the unconstitutionality of abortion before the Supreme Court that will be analyzed shortly.
“Sooner or later the Supreme Court has to bring order to the women’s social and economic disaster and project life,” he warns.