Sex and Abortion in the City (Mexico City)

| Wed Apr. 25, 2007 4:17 PM EDT

In Mexico, feminism never took. Gender relations there are pretty close to what they were in the United States in the early 60s. And because the country is largely Catholic, birth control isn't widely used among married or unmarried couples. (Arguably, the most effective contraceptive is the cultural convention of living with your family until you get married—a convention that leads to some embarrassingly heavy public petting.)

Mexico is also a country with a gaping maw of an income gap. The wealthy have live-in maids, whose own homes have dirt floors and no running water. The poor have virtually no education and no opportunities. Meanwhile, the wealthy fly to San Antonio to shop—and sometimes to have abortions, which were until yesterday illegal in Mexico except in cases of rape or serious danger to the woman's health. Yesterday, Mexico City legalized abortions in the first trimester. (Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, accounts for nearly a fifth of the country's total population.)

The timing couldn't be more ironic: The United States took a huge step backward on abortion earlier this month, banning a legitimate abortion procedure regardless of timing or circumstances. Mexico has been able to move forward recently (it also legalized same-sex marriage) due to increasingly open national and local elections, which have given power in the capital to liberals. The Times also attributes the change to the church's loss of prestige following the pedophile priest fiasco. Apparently, Mexicans are more attuned to hypocrisy than Americans, who continue to let people like Newt Gingrich and Ted Haggard preach sexual morality.

However, the Mexican conservatives—members of president Felipe Calderón's PAN party—have clearly taken a page from the religious right's playbook. PAN's Jorge Romero said legalizing abortion would "support juvenile imprudence"—a claim which is especially annoying in a country where maids, who have no idea what sex even is, are frequently raped by sons of the wealthy. And Catholic Lawyers, the main opposition group, in an echo of Mitt Romney's Desperate Conservatives move in Massachusetts, protested that the city government had violated the Constitution by ignoring a petition for a referendum on abortion.

Maybe instead of them cribbing from our shoddy, hypocritical playbook, we ought to shed our superiority complex long enough to learn a lesson or two from our neighbors to the South.

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