Search the Site

Abortion and Anti-Poverty in Mexico

We have blogged in the past about an anti-poverty program in Chicago that gave cash and prizes to poor families who paid their rent on time, got their kids to school, and looked for work. But Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, has gone even further than Chicago to suss out an anti-poverty program that he may adapt for New York. He’s gone all the way to Tepoztlan, a mountain town south of Mexico City:

[Bloomberg and other NYC officials] watched as about 800 women waited for three hours or more in the auditorium to go up to get their money. If the women and their children have kept all their medical appointments, and if their children have stayed in school, the money is theirs to use as they wish. The awards range from 360 to 3,710 pesos (about $36 to $370), enough to buy food or shoes or other necessities. The size of the award depends on how many children they have and what level of school the children are in.

The program is 10 years old, has a budget of more than $3 billion a year and covers almost a quarter of all Mexicans.

It may seem strange that one of the world’s financial capitals should look to a small mountain town for answers to its own urban ills. But since this program got its start in rural Mexico in 1997, it has been heralded by the World Bank and others as a powerful model for fighting chronic poverty.

There is much more dramatic news today out of Mexico: abortion has been legalized in Mexico City. Here is James McKinley Jr.’s report in the N.Y. Times:

Now with this vote, this capital city became the largest entity in Latin America, outside Cuba and Puerto Rico, to permit women to have abortions on demand in the first trimester. The vote, which legalized abortion within the federal district, means that the 10 million women in Mexico City and its suburbs will have easy access to an abortion. And anyone living in Mexico could travel here for an abortion.

The quotes that McKinley provides from opposing sides of the abortion issue suggest that, as in the U.S., the debate is very far from subsiding:

Feminists hailed the vote as a clear victory. For decades, poor women here have resorted to clandestine clinics, traditional midwives and herbal potions to end unwanted pregnancies. Scores die every year in botched abortions. “It’s a triumph for women’s rights,” said María Consuelo Mejía, the director of Catholics for the Right to Decide.

Abortion opponents condemned the measure. “This is a tragic day for the democracy,” said Armando Martínez, the leader of Catholic Lawyers.