With “pro-choice” activists crying “Handmaid’s Tale” over the threat of reduced abortion access, a harrowing abortion story from Mexico has offered a timely dose of perspective.
Far from a theocratic dystopia, the U.S. has one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world.
As reported this week by The New York Times, a Mexican woman named Martha Méndez Manuel went to a hospital in Veracruz a few years ago “bleeding heavily” from taking an abortion pill — and got an unwanted moral and legal reckoning.
The emergency room doctors and nurses told Méndez “what she did was wrong” and made her wait hours for surgery “to remove what remained of the fetus,” Times reporter Natalie Kitroeff recounted on the newspaper’s “The Daily” podcast:
- After the procedure, a nurse brought the remains of the fetus wrapped in a sheet to Méndez’s hospital bed and instructed her to apologize to what could have been her baby for killing it.
- The nurse then wheeled Méndez’s bed into the maternity ward so she would watch mothers receiving their newborns and “understand what she’s done.”
- The doctors and nurses later sent Méndez directly to the local prosecutor’s office to confess to having an illegal abortion.
Méndez went on to fight her prosecution, and her story made headlines in Mexico, where authorities have opened thousands of investigations into illegal abortions in recent years.
- In 2019, prosecutors dropped the case against Méndez.
MEXICO VERSUS AMERICA
According to Kitroeff and “The Daily” host Kevin Roose, what happened to Méndez illustrates how Mexico’s increasingly divisive abortion battles are a “mirror image” of America’s.
- Mexico: The Mexican Supreme Court last week ruled that abortion is not a crime even though most of the public and many healthcare professionals in the predominantly Catholic country think the procedure should remain illegal.
- America: By contrast, Roose claimed, most Americans “support the right of women to have abortions, and you have this sort of well-organized minority group that has successfully used the courts to restrict that right.”
OK, but: If you zoom out a little, American actually looks a lot like Mexico when it comes to abortion — with liberal abortion laws imposed by the highest court on a relatively conservative public.
- The judges: Ever since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, states have been forced to allow women access to abortion until at least late in the second trimester of pregnancy — with no federal limits on the procedure.
- The people: But polling from 1975 to 2019 shows a large majority of Americans wants abortion to be illegal from the beginning of the second trimester if not banned outright, and about half the country identifies as “pro-life.”
- Meanwhile, in abortion-tolerant Europe, nearly every country severely limits abortion access after about 12 weeks of gestation.
With a little historical and global perspective, “red state” abortion regulations appear less like a slippery slope to Gilead, as outraged “pro-choice” advocates imagine, and more like the popular will.
- Even Texas’ ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is relatively extreme by U.S. standards, is closer to the average American’s position than is the status quo.
- While the Supreme Court declined to block the “heartbeat law” earlier this month, causing a minor meltdown on the left, the decision was purely procedural and is expected to be quickly overtaken by a broader ruling from the court.
- A real test is coming, though, as the court has agreed to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law prohibiting most abortions of fetuses’ older than 15 weeks — a standard most Americans think is reasonable.