Women’s rights activists and a federal lawmaker yesterday rejected President López Obrador’s suggestion that the legalization of abortion could be put to a public vote.
Speaking at an International Women’s Day event at the National Palace, the president said his administration will never seek to restrict women’s freedoms but added that consultations will be used to democratically resolve controversial issues.
“We can’t forcefully declare ourselves [in favor of or against] an issue because this is a democratic movement and we represent all the schools of thought and all women, believers and non-believers,” López Obrador said.
“That’s why when we have to decide on a controversial issue we always say: let’s have a consultation . . . so as not to impose anything by force . . .” he added.
The president’s remarks triggered an immediate reaction from a group of women wearing green handkerchiefs, an accessory that has become emblematic of the campaign for abortion rights in Latin American countries such as Mexico and Argentina.
Accompanied by Citizens’ Movement lawmaker Martha Tagle, the women shouted, “rights are not up for consultation” while holding up a banner that read: “For the rights of women, not one backward step.”
López Obrador continued: “We’re never going to allow injustice. We’re always going to fight for the equality of men and women . . .”
After the event, Tagle reiterated in an interview that human rights must not be allowed to be subjected to public consultations, and called on López Obrador to provide more detail about his stance on abortion.
“. . . We’re asking for a clearer position from the leader of the executive on issues such as violence against women,” she said, referring to women’s abortion rights in cases of rape.
“. . . He [López Obrador] didn’t make any mention about that within the issue of pregnancy terminations . . . He revealed that it would be a matter for consultation, and rights are not up for consultation,” Tagle added.
Some ruling party lawmakers are calling for women to be able to legally access abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy as is currently the case in Mexico City.
However, Lilly Téllez, a Morena party senator from Sonora, is vehemently opposed.
“A woman who aborts is punishing herself in a very severe way, she’s a criminal, she’s murdering a baby,” she said in a radio interview on Thursday.
Téllez contended that the legal pregnancy termination program in Mexico City has been a “death program for more than 200,000 people,” and said she will present a proposal to Congress to “protect all individuals from conception onwards.”
Abortion should never be allowed, even in cases of rape, when deformities have been detected in the unborn baby or if the mother’s life is in danger, she said.
However, the senator conceded that a bill that proposed a complete ban on abortion would be unlikely to succeed.
“The ideal would be that a baby is not murdered in any case but it wouldn’t pass legislatively. I have to do what is possible, not what is perfect.”
In light of the current debate, Morena’s leader in the upper house of Congress, Ricardo Monreal, said the party is diverse and that the different opinions of its lawmakers are respected.
Legislating on the issue of abortion, however, is “not a priority” for the government.
“There are more important things that we have to concentrate on . . .” Monreal said.
López Obrador told reporters yesterday that he was not going to debate the issue but said he would do so at some point in the future.