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Mexico’s Pregnant Children
Linda C. Lavictoire -
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November 14, 2011
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For a preview of the effects of a personhood amendment, we can look south to Mexico. As in the United States, abortion laws are done state-by-state in Mexico. Sixteen of Mexico’s 31 states have laws and constitutional amendments similar to the personhood amendment that was rejected last week in Mississippi. There are also laws banning abortions for girls under 12 years of age and past the first trimester. Some exemptions exist for rape victims, but the first trimester rule is fairly firm in most of Mexico.

Which leads us to a pretty hysterical set of stories around the web concerning a 10-year-old who was denied an abortion in the Mexican state of Puebla. The news reports screwed up the timeline as it relates to the investigation of the girl’s rape by her stepfather.

The girl, who will turn 11 shortly, was 27 weeks pregnant when she was first brought to the hospital on Otober 22nd for complications in the pregnancy. At that point, the baby was potentially viable and she could not have received an abortion under any circumstances. The authorities were alerted and investigated. Her stepfather was arrested and is currently in jail. The girl’s complications increased over the ensuing 4 weeks and her baby boy was delivered by cesarean section at 31 weeks gestation, weighing 3.3 pounds. The girl is in foster care. The baby is still hospitalized and is recovering from pneumonia. She visits daily to breastfeed her son. Because the rapist was her stepfather, and not her biological father, there were no genetic complications from consanguinity.

Officials in Mexico have said that if the girl had come to their attention early enough in the pregnancy, she may not have qualified for the rape exemption anyway because the law forbids abortions for girls under 12.

Last year, an 11 year-old was delivered of her baby two weeks prematurely. She had been raped by her biological father, who is in jail. Again, the girl did not come to the attention of the authorities until it was too late for an abortion. Before that, there was a 13-year old who also delivered prematurely.

The cases are re-opening the debate over abortion in the predominantly-Catholic country, which is the wrong way round for this debate. Half of Mexico’s states allow abortion. The real debate should be about education for children.

It is very possible that two of these girls had never had a menstrual period, so they had no way of knowing they were pregnant until something about the pregnancy made them ill. In the case of the 10 year old, it was high fever and seizures that brought to the hospital. Even effective sex education might not have been enough. But abuse education would have been. These girls had no one to confide in, no one to tell of the abuse. They should have been able to tell teachers if they were in school, or nuns at their churches, or as a last resort, their priests in the confessional. I understand that they probably felt they could not tell their mothers, that is typical in these cases, but there should have been some other adult who could help. The first people who need to step into this situation are members of the Catholic Church hierarchy in Mexico.

Do you remember the brouhaha when Irish singer Sinead O’Connor tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II? She had been raped as a child by a relative and when she told her parish priest, he did nothing. The Catholic Church should have progressed since then, but it hasn’t. They are not reaching out to potential abuse victims and offering them a safe haven. They are not teaching what abuse is in their catechism classes. They are not stressing that all children have a right to be safe in their own bodies. It is not enough to tell girls that the Tenth Commandment means don’t twirl around in a skirt cause you might give a boy bad thoughts. These girls didn’t become pregnant the first time they were raped. If they had been able to get help at the start, the church would not have been put in the position of dealing with a possible abortion.

+ Wexico

These girls were, at some point, in public primary schools. The state bears a responsibility to get abuse education into these schools, for teachers as well as for students. And for that, the church must get involved. Religion is the primary reason given for children to be opted out of sex education in public schools. If the Church advocated for abuse education, the public schools would be able to reach the greatest number of children. Three pregnant children is three too many.

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