Exploring abortion knowledge and opinion among lawyers, an important yet overlooked stakeholder group in Mexico
Presentation at the American Public Health Association 137th Annual Meeting & Exposition, Philadelphia, 10 November
Wilson,Katherine; Garcia,Sandra G.; Diaz,Claudia
Publication date: 2009
Mexico has received international attention for legalizing first-trimester abortions in Mexico City in 2007; however, abortion remains a divisive issue, and many women are denied legal abortion. Lawyers are important for promoting/criminalizing abortion, yet little is known about where they stand on abortion.
(1) Assess abortion knowledge and opinion among criminal lawyers in Mexico; (2) Assess willingness to help women who are denied legal abortion.
We administered a quantitative survey of abortion knowledge, attitudes, and practices among a sample of lawyers in conservative and progressive regions (Leon, Tijuana, Tlaxcala, Mexico City). Following a pilot to assess feasibility, we recruited lawyers via public ministries and listings of private firms. All data were analyzed in SPSS.
250 lawyers participated, 53 percent were public-sector and 47 percent were private-sector attorneys. The majority were men (70%). The average age was 40 and average years practicing was 15. Ninety percent responded correctly that abortion is illegal in Mexico except in specific circumstances. Only 34 percent of Mexico City lawyers (none from elsewhere) mentioned spontaneously that abortion is legal in the capital, though 61 percent supported this. Only 10 percent knew a lawyer who had represented a woman in a case of abortion service denial. Interestingly, 84 percent said that they were ready to defend a woman in such a case while the rest refused for moral or religious reasons.
Although Mexican lawyers have limited knowledge of abortion laws, most support legal abortion in some cases and the Mexico City law. Lawyers should be mobilized for legal abortion advocacy in legally restricted countries.