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MEXICO: The Catholic Church and Abortion

The Catholic Church and PAN are running into trouble over abortion. It began last year when in Mexicali a 13-year old girl who had been raped by a drug-addict (now in jail) was, under pressure from a priest, refused an abortion. She was now photographed, a charming little girl cuddling her baby.

The clamor about her case heightened when the Guanajuato chapter of PAN decreed that it opposed all abortions, even in the case of rape, and announced in its bulletin that this would be added to the state's penal code. A rather unattractive priest announced that the rapist was the criminal, not the innocent child. He was following the Vatican's doctrine that birth begins at the moment of conception and is inviolable. He was supported by the Episcopal Council.

There were vehement street protests by militant feminists, supported by many women. In Mexico City, PAN headquarters said the Guanajuato chapter was acting on its own, but Vicente Fox.who had been governor of Guanajuato, stayed out of the argument publicly. His relations with the party were already tense, since he had been supported by a broad coalition called Friends of Fox. He was described as not a genuine Panista. His good relations with the Church were already complicated by the fact that he is divorced. The Human Right Commission in Mexico took up the Guanajuato case, which might split the PAN and lead Fox to rely more on the broad coalition he is promoting with some success. A poll showed that twice as many people approved of abortion in the case of rape as opposed it.

The PRD of Cuautémoc Cárdenas had suffered badly in the elections, but the governor of the Federal District belongs to the party and he vowed that the rights of women would be protected in the capital. It was speculated that the PRI might fade away and be replaced by a strengthened PRD as the main opposition party. Only time will tell.

Fox, clearly a not a wimp, was viewed as capable of fighting the horrible wave of crime sweeping Mexico. Dramatic TV pictured showed mobs taking the law into their own hands in what amounted to lynchings. In fighting crime, Fox could count on the support of the Church.

Ronald Hilton - 8/08/00