LA Times Propagates Mexico Abortion Falsehoods

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."

Yet on Saturday (11/3/07), Tobar reported that in the first six months since abortion was legalized, "more than 3,400 women have received abortions at 14 of the capital's public hospitals."

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.)


It is a well-established fact that the abortion camp has lied before. Before the Roe v. Wade case was decided in 1973, it was commonly heard that "5,000 to 10,000" women a year in the United States died from illegal abortions. In fact, according to CDC figures, that number was closer to 39. "I confess that I knew the [5,000 to 10,000] figures were totally false," admitted Bernard Nathanson, a co-founder of NARAL who is now a pro-life activist (source).

If Tobar and his friends at the Times want to carry out honest journalism, rather than abortion advocacy in the news section, they should consider some better sources. How about Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute:

As far as the [abortion] numbers given for the developing world, they are simply bogus. Take the case of Columbia, for example. In the hysteria surrounding the effort to legalize abortion there, the feminists kept advancing higher and higher numbers. The numbers of illegal [hence "unsafe"] abortions spiraled upward at a dizzying pace–250,000, 300,000, 450,000. All fantasy.

I interviewed the Vice Minister for Health of Columbia on September 28th of this year. She informed me that, since the legalization of abortion in that country on May 10th of last year, the Ministry for Social Protection's health clinics had performed approximately 50 abortions. Not 50,000, or 5,000, or even 500. Fifty. This is several orders of magnitude smaller than predicted. (emphasis mine,, 10/11/07)


Another egregious element in Tobar's article was the characterization of a group called "Catholic Women for the Right to Choose." Tobar brazenly labels the organization as a "Catholic women's group." Good grief. Tobar makes no mention of the fact that the Catholic Church has staunchly opposed abortion since its earliest days and that the group is in complete defiance of Church authority.

In 2003, the Arizona Republic newspaper identified the organization as "a group that advocates changes in church doctrine on contraception, homosexuality and the right to choose abortion" (source). A 2006 article in the Houston Chronicle cited the group as supporting the teaching of homosexuality and masturbation in Mexico's federally mandated textbooks (source).

In other words, "Catholic Women for the Right to Choose" is not Catholic at all. They call themselves Catholic in the same bogus way that deceivers Garry Wills and James Carroll identify themselves as "Catholic."

Not cool, LAT. We've reported on the LA Times's problems in reporting the abortion issue here, here, here, here, here, and here.