‘They Decriminalized Abortion, But They Still Judge Us’: The Mexican Fight for Reproductive Justice

Lawyer Ariadne Song said she has many cases still unresolved, creating quite a backlog. (Rebecca Robyns)

Human rights defender and lawyer Ariadne Song specializes in gender-based rights law.

Song has defended women’s rights cases for 19 years, including the ‘aborto legal’ campaign first started by the Green Wave, or Marea Verde, in Argentina.

Her long working day consists of unresolved cases of femicide and growing cases of violencia vicaria, which according to the human rights organization Amnesty International, is a form of gender violence that aims to harm women through their loved ones, especially their daughters.

She also offers a safe refuge for women when they need it—anytime, day or night.

A march on International Women’s Day in March 2023 in Chetumal, Quintana Roo—Song’s hometown. (Rebecca Robyns)

The Mexican Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in September 2021, allowing women access to the procedure up until 12 weeks gestation. But women are still struggling to gain proper access to legal abortion for free at public hospitals, since doctors are unaware of the law or find excuses to delay the procedure.

Abortion after 12 weeks remains illegal in Mexico except when the procedure is required to save the life or health of the mother and in cases of sexual violence or “serious fetal malformations.”

“The medical association of Quintana Roo, where I am based, is ‘pro-life,'” said Song. “The board of medics were against decriminalization from the beginning and is still hindering the progress for women. Therefore, I have had to accompany women to the clinic to ensure their rights are granted as they are denied the service until we intervene.”

She continued, “What we urgently require is for government to adapt the health law of the state of Quintana Roo, guaranteeing access to the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights so that women can have the right to decide when they terminate a pregnancy legally.

“We are also working to ensure that access to comprehensive sexual education is readily available, especially to women living in marginalized areas that have minimal access to information available to them in the health centers; we need to reach the women in these communities in these contexts of marginalization,” she added.

Ariadne Song shows me the neverending stack of caseloads that pile up every month, leading me to wonder if a woman’s life in Mexico will ever be worth more than a statistic to the government.

I asked her about her teenage daughter and her hopes for her future.

“I want my daughter and young women to live free without fear and find like-minded people that will stand up for injustice, so they are not carrying this burden because they are women. To be able to choose their futures,” she said.

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Rebecca Robyns is a British human rights photographer based between the U.K. and Mexico. She has a master's degree in photojournalism from the University of Arts, London. Her main body of work focuses on women's reproductive rights in Mexico and Latin America.