MEXICO CITY — Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Mexico in marches promoted as “pro-woman and pro-life” and repudiating a recent Supreme Court decision decriminalizing abortion.
Marches in at least 89 cities across the country were “put together on short notice,” said Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola of Monterrey, secretary-general of the Mexican bishops’ conference, which helped promote the Oct. 3 demonstrations.
“We hope this is the start of an awakening in our population,” Bishop Miranda told Catholic News Service. “(It’s) the defeat of the spiral of death and silence, the awakening of the silent majority in favor of life.”
The largest march occurred in Mexico City, with thousands of demonstrators streaming through the streets shouting, “Yes to life!” At the iconic Angel of Independence monument, they sang the national anthem and held a rally.
“We want to propose a grand national accord in favor of women and of life,” said Irma Barrientos, an activist and spokeswoman for the marches, reading from a declaration. “We are here because above all of these difficulties, we believe we can help one another. We are here because we want to leave behind reproaching and division, and we want to build and unite. We want a united Mexico, not a Mexico divided between life and death.”
“Today, we leave our divisions behind and we want to start building.”
Exact numbers remain disputed; organizers spoke of 1 million protesters nationwide and bringing 500 buses to Mexico City from outlying states, while several Mexican newspapers put the numbers at the protest in the capital at 10,000 people.
Many demonstrators were dressed in white with blue bandannas — a symbol of the pro-life movement in Latin America, in contrast to the green handkerchiefs worn by women demonstrating for abortion access. All marchers were encouraged to wear masks and take COVID-19 precautions.
Large pro-life protests have occurred sporadically in Mexico — most notably in 2016 after the federal government proposed legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide — but with less consistency and fervor than other Latin American countries.
Pro-life protests were also modest during the September sessions of the Supreme Court, which struck down a law in northern Coahuila state, effectively decriminalizing abortion nationwide.
The Mexican bishops’ conference expressed dismay with the ruling, but also stated, “Prison is not a solution to the problems faced by women who have an abortion.”
The Supreme Court also reviewed the limits of conscientious objection for medical staff, but ultimately asked Congress to draw up new guidelines.
“Society is divided. … But we want to raise awareness,” said Lianna Rebolledo, a spokeswoman for the marches.
“These marches are not the end. We would like a national dialogue. We want proposals in order to implement public policies in support of women and of life,” Barrientos said in an interview. “We have to stop thinking that taking a human life is going to resolve Mexico’s social problems.”