MEXICO – Women’s abortion seeking behavior under restrictive abortion laws in Mexico

by Fatima Juarez, Akinrinola Bankole, Jose Luis Palma

PLOSONE, 27 December 2019 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0226522 (Open access)


Abortion isregulated in Mexico at the state level, and permitted under certain criteria inall 32 states, except Mexico City, where first-trimester abortion isdecriminalized. More than a million abortions occur in Mexico each year, butmost terminations occurring outside of Mexico City are clandestine… The purposeof this study was to explore women’s experiences with induced abortion in threefederal entities with different legal contexts, and whether abortion-seekingbehavior and experiences differ across these settings. The study was carriedout in three states… Queretaro with the “most restrictive” law, Tabasco with a“moderately restrictive” law, and Mexico state with the “least restrictive”law.

We hypothesizedthat women living in more restrictive states will resort to the use of moreunsafe and risky methods and providers for their abortion than theircounterparts in less restrictive states. Women who recently obtained abortionswere selected through snowball sampling and qualitative data were collectedfrom them using semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Data collection tookplace between mid-2014 and mid-2015, with a final sample size n=60 (20 fromeach state). Various themes were… examined: women’s knowledge of the abortionlaw in their state, reasons for having an abortion; the methods and providersused, and women’s positive and negative experiences with abortion methods andproviders used.

Our resultsindicate that abortion safety is not associated with the restrictiveness ofabortion legislation. Findings show that there is a new pattern of abortionservice provision in Mexico, with misoprostol, a relatively safe and easy touse method, playing an important role. Nevertheless, while access tomisoprostol tends to increase the safety of abortion, the improvement ismoderated by women and their informants (relatives, friends and partners) nothaving accurate information on how to safely self-induce an abortion withmisoprostol. On the other hand, some women manage to have safe abortion… bygoing to Mexico City or with the support of NGOs knowledgeable on abortion.

Findingsdemonstrate the importance of decriminalization of abortion, but meanwhile,harm reduction strategies, including promotion of accurate information aboutself-use of misoprostol where abortion is legally restricted, will result insafe abortion.

PHOTO: Jose Luis Plata/Reuters. Oaxaca reforms its abortion law. 25 September2019.