In 2008, Mexico City—which, like Washington, D.C., is a federal district that is not part of any state—legalized abortion. But the states in Mexico, a strongly Catholic country, did not follow suit. In fact, after abortion became legal in Mexico City, 17 out of 32 Mexican states passed initiatives banning abortion entirely.
“When the law was passed in Mexico City there were high expectations that the change would translate to similar changes in other states,” said Ana Langer, professor of the practice of public health and director of Harvard School of Public Health’s Women and Health Initiative, in a July 17, 2012 broadcast of the show Worldview on Chicago public radio station WBEZ. “Usually what happens in the capital city has a very strong influence on the rest of the country. But in this case, that didn’t happen.”
Because of the increased restrictions on abortion outside Mexico City, many women travel to the capital to get an abortion, paying a modest fee because they’re nonresidents. Women with financial resources can access abortion services fairly easily, Langer said, but “poorer women have more difficulty in getting the procedure done at all.”
In most Latin American countries there is some level of legal restriction on abortion because of the strong influence of the Catholic Church, Langer said. Four countries—El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, and Uruguay—don’t allow abortions under any circumstances, including rape and the health of the mother.