Journal Article

Young Mexicans’ hopes and fears about abortion and abortion law: A qualitative study in two cities

Background and methodology
In Mexico, abortion is legal only in limited, specific circumstances and unsafe abortion complications are estimated to be the third or fourth leading cause of maternal mortality. Our study sought to understand the opinions Mexicans hold about abortion and sexuality and to learn about their fears and hopes about more liberalized abortion laws in Mexico. We carried out 12 focus groups with a total of 87 women and men, aged 18–24. Six focus groups took place in Mexico City and six in Merida, Yucatan. One reader thematically analyzed and coded discussion transcripts.

Participants favoring highly restrictive abortion laws generally felt that pregnant women should “face the consequences” of having a baby, whereas those who favored less restrictive laws focused less on culpability and more on the woman’s right to control her future. Mexico City participants generally had more liberal abortion opinions. Most Merida participants thought abortion was never legal, despite the fact that their state has the country’s most liberal abortion laws. Many felt that, if abortion were legal, there would be more abortions but that it would likely be a safer procedure.

Discussion and conclusions
Merida participants’ more conservative attitudes may be a reflection of their lower educational levels and larger proportion of Catholic participants compared to the Mexico City groups. It is critical to introduce more balanced information that emphasizes the safety of abortions performed under legal conditions and address fears of greatly elevated abortion rates if abortion laws were liberalized.  Mexican young adults need more scientific, balanced sources of information on abortion and abortion law.