Abortion Comes to Latin America
Can Mexico’s Pro-Life Insurgents Hold the Line?
BY Alejandro Bermudez
LATIN AMERICA CORRESPONDENT
October 12-18, 2008 Issue | Posted 10/7/08 at 3:00 PM
MEXICO CITY — Critical blows to the cause of life in Latin America were delivered in August and September, and pro-life advocates fear more is on the way.
In late August, Mexico’s Supreme Court decided to uphold the constitutionality of a law in Mexico City that allows abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
On Sept. 28, Ecuadorans passed a new constitution that local bishops had warned would “jeopardize the protection of the right to life of the unborn.”
And pro-lifers in the region are watching the presidential election in the United States just as closely as Americans are, fearing that a potential Barack Obama administration could do even greater harm to the cause of innocent unborn life than the Clinton administration’s foreign policies did.
In Mexico, a country whose patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been adopted by the pro-life movement as its own patron saint, eight members of the 11-member court rejected arguments from the Mexican attorney general and the National Commission on Human Rights; both argued the law passed by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly in 2007 was unconstitutional.
“This decision is historic and finally opens the door to a massive recognition of women’s rights in all Mexico and, very soon, in all Latin America,” said Nora Ruvalcaba, a Mexican feminist and member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, which pushed for the legalization of abortion.
“The judiciary has finally recognized that the rights of women should be given priority over the rights of the unborn conceived,” Ruvalcaba said. “This is good news for all women in the region, and very soon we will see the benefits applied at a national and continental level,” she added.
Not so fast, says Jorge Serrano Limon, founder of Mexico’s oldest pro-life organization. Serrano is one of several lay leaders pushing for constitutional amendments that would prevent the legalization of abortion in Mexico’s 31 states.
“Unlike Roe v. Wade in the U.S., the Supreme Court in Mexico has passed a very ambiguous decision, which basically says that it cannot declare abortion unconstitutional,” Serrano explained to the Register.
“But the court has not proclaimed abortion constitutional either,” he said. “Therefore, state constitutions can still include the right to life from the moment of conception and shield the state from the Mexico City legislation.”
In fact, Jalisco and Nuevo Leon, the two most important Mexican states after Mexico City, are on the verge of approving constitutional amendments that will establish the right to life of the unborn from the moment of conception.
Carlos Polo, president of Latin America for the Virginia-based Population Research Institute, said that the Mexican decision “is indeed a catastrophe for the cause of life in Mexico and Latin America.” But to expect that abortion will be approved anytime soon in other states or even other Latin American nations is “mere feminist wishful thinking,” he said.
“First of all, unlike the one of Mexico, most other Latin American constitutions explicitly recognize the right to life from the moment of conception,” Polo explained. “No wonder pro-abortion organizations are trying to create legal exceptions or take advantage of some legal loopholes to establish some kind of abortion exception by means of the legislative or the executive powers.”
Indeed, feminist organizations are trying to legalize abortion by means of legislatures in Uruguay, Costa Rica and Chile, and by executive decisions in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and perhaps Paraguay.
Only in Venezuela and Ecuador are there efforts to rewrite the constitutions. Last December, a draft was rejected in Venezuela. But in Ecuador, on Sept. 28, voters approved of a referendum for a deeply anti-life and anti-family constitution drafted by the left-wing party controlled by President Rafael Correa.
Correa, who has a 65% approval rating, hoped to get the 51% required to approve the draft. Ecuadorans went further: 64% of voters approved the measure.
When Correa’s government launched a campaign July 28 in favor of the approval of the new constitution, local bishops released a strongly worded statement arguing that the new constitution would “jeopardize the protection of the right to life of the unborn,” “undermine parental authority in the field of education,” “make same-sex unions equivalent to marriage” and “increase out of proportion the power of the state.”
According to Max Loaiza, president of the Ecuadoran Council of Lay Catholics, the new constitution has been “carefully worded in a way that abortion or same-sex ‘marriage’ will not become legal immediately, but once laws are passed in the future, there is nothing in the constitution that will prevent Ecuador from becoming one of the most liberal, pro-abortion and anti-family countries in the region.”
Loaiza said the most disturbing aspect in the drafting of the constitution has been the decisive influence of two Spanish socialist “advisers.”
The advisers, who were paid $16,000 a month by Correa’s government — four times what the average Ecuadoran makes yearly — belong to the Center for Political and Social Studies in Valencia, Spain, a think tank closely associated with the Spanish government. The center’s main goal in Latin America is to promote completely secularized societies.
According to Polo, despite pro-abortion organizations outspending pro-lifers 30-to-1 in the region, “the battle for life is still on our side in most of the countries.”
However, he believes that the “Spanish connection” could change the correlation of forces in the near future.
In fact, there are other Spanish socialist groups in the region.
Earlier this year, Pedro Zerolo, a homosexual activist and the executive secretary of Spain’s Socialist Party, made an official visit to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — where he met with then-president-elect and former bishop Fernando Lugo to promote, in his words, “gender ideology and the recognition of human rights for abortion and gay ‘marriage.’”
Zerolo is president of Spain’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals and a confidant of Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Despite not having any position in the Spanish government, Zerolo’s ideological tour was sponsored by the Spanish embassies in the region. During his tour, he not only met with feminist and homosexual groups, offering them Spain’s support, but also promised “financial contributions [from the Spanish government] if we can work together on issues of poverty, education, gender and climate change.
“The same people who opposed change in Spain will oppose these laws here. But I’m not worried about protests from the right and from the Church,” Zerolo said.
Pope Benedict XVI may have had these issues in mind when he spoke to the bishops from Uruguay Sept. 26, as they concluded their ad limina visit (required every five years to discuss the state of the diocese) to Rome.
“Teach then,” he told the bishops, “the faith of the Church in its entirety, with the courage and conviction of those who live from it and for it, not shrinking from an explicit proclamation of the moral values of Catholic doctrine, which are at times the subject of debate in political and cultural circles and in the communications media, such as those referring to the family, to sexuality and to life ... from conception to natural end.”
Nevertheless, more dangerous than the “Spanish connection” for the cause of life in the region could be the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.
A Latin American representative of a U.S.-based pro-life organization spoke to the Register on condition of anonymity, fearing that candid comments about Obama may create Internal Revenue Service issues for her parent organization.
She explained that the first step that President Bill Clinton took in 1992 was the suspension of the Mexico City Policy, which prevents the use of U.S. taxpayers’ money to promote abortion outside the United States. The decision was reversed by President George W. Bush.
“Obama, who has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as his first presidential act, will certainly reverse the Mexico City Policy again, thus injecting significant resources into pro-abortion organizations in the region,” the source told the Register.
The money, she explained, “will be ready right away, since every single office of USAID [United States Agency for International Development] in the region is equipped to channel funds to feminist organizations.”
In fact, according to Polo, “even today, one of the hardest tasks we face is to make sure that the U.S. law is respected, and that U.S. money is not used by Latin American feminist organizations to promote abortion.”
Said Polo, “I can’t imagine what will happen if the money faucet is reopened to them.”
Alejandro Bermudez is
based in Lima, Peru.
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