Since 2001, spontaneous abortions due to malnutrition or any other physical limitation as well as voluntary interruptions of pregnancy, are punished with up to 35 years in jail in Guanajuato. For the El Bajío Taliban, these are “homicides of kinship by reason of aggravation of a product in gestation,” according to the state’s penal code. Or, as simplified by Governor Juan Manuel Oliva Ramírez in an interview published yesterday by La Jornada, they are “infanticide.”
Just today, because of this vile accusation, five young peasant women woke up in jail at the Social Rehabilitation Center in Puentecillas, in the outskirts of Guanajuato’s capital, and another one in Valle de Santiago, near Michoacan. They are all sentenced to more than 25 years of imprisonment. The oldest one in the group (who is just 26 and has already served 9 of her 26-year sentence,) has never received medical attention, reproductive health education or assistance to prevent or interrupt her pregnancies. One of them became pregnant the fourth time she was raped, and was arrested after she had an abortion, while she received no protection against the men who abused her for years.
Aside from being victims of such an atrocious and unacceptable injustice, all these women received the same surprise when they arrived to public hospitals, dripping blood and psychologically devastated: before they were treated in the emergency room, the hospital personnel called agents of the appropriate public agency in order to catch them “in the act.”
The six of them –plus Alma Yareli Salazar Saldaña, who was freed– went from the hospital straight to jail. After being sentenced, some of them appealed to the Superior Court of Justice, but they lost the case due to the lack of good lawyers. Now, in order to bring it to the Supreme Court (Mexico’s moral dump,) each of them needs to gather at least 500 thousand Mexican pesos [almost $40,000 USD] to get a lawyer to represent them. An impossible dream, since their families live in extreme poverty and rarely have the means to gather the 400 pesos ($32 USD) to travel from their villages to the Puentecillas Rehabilitation Center to visit.
At this moment, there are 166 women in Guanajuato who were also turned in by their “doctors” to the police. Forty-three of them are at the mercy of the court to be submitted to a penal process. It is not only a matter of the six peasant women who are imprisoned or about the ones who are sitting in the waiting room of terror, but about all women in Mexico and throughout the world.
When we think of choice, being pro choice, having a choice, we usually think of it in abstract terms as in “I wish for every woman to have access to reproductive choice”. However, this, six jailed women + another 166 awaiting trial is what “lack of choice” means. Something we need to remember when we allow the discussion to be in terms of “pro choice” vs. “pro life”. In reality, the argument is one of “pro freedom to decide over our bodies” vs. “people who would like to see us jailed for doing so”. Then suddenly, the discussion is no longer so abstract.
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