Margarita lives and studies in the port of Veracruz, a city located in the Gulf of Mexico, is 18 years old and for days has had stomach discomfort and her breasts have had unusual swelling. The 2014 Holiday sat in 2014 is about to begin and before returning to his hometown, Playa Vicente, he decides to go to the free public medical service he has for being a student at the Universidad Veracruzana. At Clinic 61 of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), a doctor diagnoses him with colitis, gastritis and inflammation of the mammary glands. She is given her medications for the next two months she will spend with her family.
Three months later, in March 2015, Margarita has a delay in her menstrual cycle. A pregnancy test is performed and positive. A few days later, severe pain and heavy bleeding lead her back to the clinic. In the emergency room, after waiting four hours for care, the gynecologist tells her that she is 20 weeks pregnant and that her discomfort is due to her being having an abortion. The pain and bleeding continues, but the medical staff does nothing. They leave her on a stretcher, call the police and accuse her of having had an abortion.
That same week, the prosecution launched a criminal investigation against Margarita for abortion, although they initially wanted to open the murder trial. In the state of Veracruz this procedure is not legal, but the penalty is not punishable by imprisonment. The rules require women to undergo a so-called «re-education» process. In the states of Mexico where illegal abortion is still considered, the sentences do not exceed 6 years in prison and are switchable by the payment of bail or community work.
Find out: Bioethics committees prevent abortion access to girls who were raped in Mexico
This Ojo-publico.com investigation goes deeper into how in recent years the authorities have begun to report women for a crime that does result in deprivation of their liberty: murder in relation to kinship. The goal: to establish tougher processes and sanctions against women.
When convicted of manslaughter, they can be convicted for up to 40 years. In Mexico City and Oaxaca Alone, abortion is allowed until 12 weeks gestation. In the rest of the country, the only causal that is approved across the country is rape.
The most vulnerable
Las Libres is an organization that has been working in Mexico for 19 years. They argue that the judicialization against women by abortion applies selectively, especially to those living in conditions of poverty, violence, marginalization and exclusion. They are the main ones affected by complaints from health officials where they came because they needed care.
Margarita grew up in a small rural village with vestiges of Zapotec origin, located in the municipality of Playa Vicente, in Veracruz. When her mother moved to the city to find a job that would allow her to pay for the education of her three children, her maternal grandmother took care of her and her two siblings.
From the age of six, the grandmother taught her the chores of the home and asked her to attend to both her brothers and her uncles and cousins, for as soon as she reached adolescence she had to get married and start her own family. Margaret grew up in an atmosphere of ingrained religious beliefs. He didn’t get married at 15 like his mother did. Against his grandmother’s will, he left town to start his university studies and chose business administration. She was the first woman in her family to go to college.
Margarita learns that she is one year pregnant within a year of completing her university studies. He gives the news to his ex-partner, but he tells her that she had to take care of it alone. She knows that that meant dropping out of college, because she would need money, she does not doubt it and decides to continue with the pregnancy.
That March 2015 day, when Margarita enters the hospital as an emergency, she recalls telling the medical staff, «I’m pregnant.» At no point were he given him pain medication and stop the bleeding. «What hurt me a lot is that they never worried about saving anyone’s life. They said it was an abortion and immediately reported me,» Margaret said for this investigation.
It was only when he stopped bleeding, he was given a sedative. When he woke up, hospital staff, police and reporters were around his bed. Everyone was like, «Why did you kill your son, who sold you the pills?» Margaret noticed that the policemen began harassing her friend who had assisted her and rushed. She was accused of helping her have an abortion. «I had to ask him to leave, I didn’t want him to be a part of this,» he recalls.
The abuse continued as she was left alone. The nurses brought her up the fetus wrapped in a sheet, forced her to kiss him, and said she was told to apologize for «murdering» him. The medical staff gave her a name and margarita’s last name. Then they gave him a document to sign. «I didn’t understand anything, I felt bad, guilty, and I started to think That I had killed my son.»
Margarita stayed two more days in the clinic, placed her in the maternity area, in a room next to other women who had just given birth and held their babies in their arms. «It was torture, everyone called me a murderer.» The dinsing continued with the nurses: by supplying him with the serum, his needles were aggressively crushed, so much so that his arm ended with bruises. «They didn’t feed me. They told me I was going to jail.»
Veronica Cruz, director of Las Libres, explains that «the main problem with criminal investigations that are initiated against women is that many do not know their rights, and doctors and nurses wield power against them».
The representative of Las Libres also points out one of the most sensitive points in these complaints: the breaking of medical-patient confidentiality. «The principle of privacy and privacy is violated, officials became judges, setting aside what is established by official Mexican Standard 007, which must provide their services with quality and respect for their human rights, mainly to their dignity and providing, as far as possible, psychological support,» he explains.
To understand how the care protocols were being implemented in these cases, we requested an interview with a representative of the Mexican College of Specialists in Gynecology and Obstetrics, but they refused to give an interview arguing that they did not have Time.
Although the principal of the clinic told Margarita that she would have no problems, when she was discharged she was taken directly to give her statement to the prosecution. That’s where her ex-boyfriend and one of the nurses who harassed her also arrived. With no lawyer accompanying her, the public prosecutor’s office asked her if she did not feel sorry. «So much they told me I was a murderer, I thought I’d spend it in prison that night.»
Margarita only had access to a lawyer when the organization Las Libres contacted her. Veronica Cruz’s involvement in the defense was critical so she wasn’t charged with murder.
According to data from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, 2,569 investigations have been opened between January 2015 and August 2019. Las Libres have built their own database, and in this they have established that in 17 years (2000-2017) there were about 4,118 people investigated for the crime of abortion. In their research they take into account three different official sources (state, federal and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography – INEGI). Not all cases indicate the sex of the incriminated.
Activists have found that in different states there are a number not yet accused of abortion, but by homicide in relation to kinship, infanticide, parricide, omission of care and philicide, crimes that reach prison sentences with up to 40 years.
Veronica Cruz explains that the system is insated with women who do not know their rights and do not have the possibility of having legal defense. «There is a will of the whole state. Abortion is being sanctioned socially and these women seek exemplary punishment.» For accusers, «the idea is that these women should have been mothers.»
The amnesty announced by the President of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador to free women imprisoned for abortion scare will not benefit women accused of murder, since it is expressly mentioned that it does not reach serious crimes.
In Mexico, only in the capital and recently in Oaxaca you can perform abortion until 12 weeks. According to data from the government of the country’s capital, from April 2007 to July 2019, more than 214,000 women from across the country have flocked to the city to request termination of their pregnancy.
For the rest of the country, the only legal form of abortion is for cases of sexual rape. The rule states that it is not necessary to file a complaint as evidence, however, some doctors request it or refuse to perform the procedure.
After the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico City in 2008, local congresses in 17 states have made reforms to state constitutions in order to «protect life from the moment of conception.» The intention has been to limit women’s reproductive rights, prevent access to legal and safe abortion, and to hinder future attempts to widen causes or completely decriminalize abortion.
However, reforms are not a legal obstacle to access to abortion under the causes determined by each state. All they have achieved is to confuse women, health service personnel and law enforcement officials.
Margarita was lucky not to go to jail because from the beginning she had the legal support of Las Libres and the Public Interest Clinic of the CIDE (Centre for Economic Research and Teaching), who brought an amparo, which reached the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation . In the end, the case was shelved.
In the opinion of the Chosen Reproduction Information Group (Gire), in Mexico, the woman who aborts, either voluntarily or involuntarily, or who has a random birth, suffers a stigma, those who go through a judicial process «regardless of the meaning of the sentence, can have permanent consequences on the lives of those reported, their families and their relationship with their community.»
Margarita’s mother was forced to marry at the age of 15 to a man her grandmother chose, eventually leaving because she was constantly raping and beating. «We are the product of rape, my mom told me when she learned of the abortion: I was able to abort you, but I decided to have you. So I felt more guilty, I thought if she could get us through, I could have, too.»
Physically and emotionally worn out, Margarita suffered from depression and although she had psychological help, people’s harassment continued. «My life was horrible, terrifying.» To regain his peace of mind, he left Veracruz, moved to León, Guanajuato. When the press realized that she had left the port, she was accused of fleeing justice.
Between 2007 and 2009, 531 criminal trials and 228 abortion sentences were held in Mexico, 19 of which were sentenced to prison. In the same period, for offences of infanticide and murder, 36 criminal trials were conducted against women, 23 of them stepped foot in jail. This is detailed in the text «Maternity or Punishment, the criminalization of abortion in Mexico» published by Gire in August 2018.
When she moved to Guanajato, Margarita was still being blamed, «I was very angry with myself, because my whole project fell apart, because I had to change my life,» she says. Then, he eventually decided to resume his studies and move away from his accusers. Today she is a company administration graduate and accompanies women in their abortion processes, «I feel free,» she tells us.
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