ABORTION CRIMINALIZATION ON THE GROUND.

ABORTION CRIMINALIZATION ON THE GROUND. Mexico City is on the verge of decriminalizing abortion. The New York Times story on it is really first-rate. What I like about it is that it makes clear what the effects of the abortion ban are, and women will have large numbers of abortions even under conditions of formal illegality:

Dominated by liberals, Mexico City�s legislature is expected to legalize abortion in a few weeks. The bill would make this city one of the largest entities in Latin America to break with a long tradition of women resorting to illegal clinics and midwives to end unwanted pregnancies ...

Leftists and feminists, meanwhile, have accused opponents of turning a blind eye to reality. They say millions of women here, and indeed throughout much of Latin America, already ignore the law and choose to abort fetuses, often in dingy underground clinics or the private homes of midwives. They risk infection, sterility and sometimes death.

�Women are dying, above all poor women, because of unsafe abortions,� said Mar�a Consuelo Mej�a, the director of Catholics for the Right to Decide. �What we would like is that these women never have to confront the necessity of an abortion, but in this society it�s impossible right now. There is no access to information, to contraceptives. Nor do most women have the power to negotiate the use of contraceptives with their partners.�

The key question of abortion policy is always not whether women will get abortions, but whether non-affluent women will have access to safe abortions. It's strongly in the interests of the forced pregnancy lobby to ignore this reality, because once you do take it into account, abortion criminalization is essentially indefensible.

Another interesting aspect of the article is the reaction of pro-criminalization elites: "[Calderon's] health minister and other surrogates in the conservative National Action Party, however, are in the thick of it. They have proposed streamlining adoption laws, improving sex education, and providing subsidies to unwed mothers as alternatives." This makes them more serious than most of their American counterparts, at least. But I would ask the same question I would of "Feminists For Life": if you favor these things, what's stopping you? Why are they merely "alternatives," particularly given what an ineffective tool criminalization is when it comes to preventing abortions? And, again, the answer is that American criminalization regimes are about a lot more than protecting fetal life.

--Scott Lemieux

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