As unrestricted first-trimester abortions were being made legal in Mexico City for the first time this past April, the Los Angeles Times reported claims that "up to 1 million Mexican women seek abortions every year" and "thousands of poor women die every year" from illegal abortions. However, recent reporting reveals that the capital's public hospitals are now on pace to perform less than one percent of one million abortions in the first year of legalization.
By grossly inflating the number of illegal abortions and the deaths they caused, the Times has propagated abortion falsehoods yet again.
Staffer Hector Tobar has been covering the developments in Mexico for the Times. Back in March of this year, before the legalization, Tobar reported a claim from abortion activists that "about 1 million [largely illegal] abortions are performed in Mexico each year." In April, a Times editorial echoed the line: "It's estimated that up to 1 million Mexican women seek abortions every year."
Let's do some math. The 3,400 number covers the first six months since legalization. At this pace, Mexico City's public hospitals will perform about 7,000 abortions in one year's time.
Seven thousand is 0.7% of one million. Tobar and the Times apparently want us to believe that one million women a year used to seek out dangerous, costly, and (almost entirely) illegal abortions, yet now less than one percent of that number will have a "safe," legal, and free abortion over the same period of time in the capital's public hospitals? (Abortions from private clinics in the city are not factored here. But let's postulate that an equal number of abortions are performed there. That would raise the percentage only to 1.4%.) (Greater Mexico City is home to over 19.2 million people (2006 figure, source), and according to Tobar, 40 percent of the population of Mexico (total population: 108.7 million) is within a day's drive of the capital.)
The Times and Tobar have some explaining to do.
In his recent story, Tobar even acknowledged that many of the illegal clinics have closed. "[L]egalization is bringing a profound, if quiet, change to the way thousands of women lead their lives," beamed the gleeful Tobar.
In addition, the Times also appears to have flagrantly exaggerated the deaths from illegal abortions in Mexico. The April editorial from the Times stated, "Thousands of poor women die every year because of black-remedies and back-alley operations." In March, before the legalization, Tobar reported, "According to studies here, about 2,000 to 3,000 Mexican women die every year of complications from illegal abortions." In Saturday's article, Tobar pumped up this figure: "According to one estimate, more than 3,500 women died from botched abortions each year." Tobar did not bother to tell us where his "one estimate" came from.
Yet the Times's and Tobar's claims seemed to be debunked by the Mexico's Health Ministry. According to a March 2007 article in the New York Times, "At least 88 women died in 2006 from botched abortions, the Health Ministry says, though it is far from clear that all cases were reported." So we have an official number of 88 ... versus ... an unidentified "one estimate" of 3,500. (To be fair, in the March article, the same one in which he used the "2,000 to 3,000," figure, Tobar also cited a pro-life activist later in the piece who "said the number of women who die in botched abortions nationwide each year is less than 100." But Tobar has omitted this figure in a number of articles since then.)