Monday, July 19, 2010

A More Serious Example of Deviance: Abortion in Mexico

Al Jazeera has a useful YouTube video up that nicely illustrates the concept of deviance: "Criminalising abortions in Mexico." The video illustrates what happens to women when the church is able to leverage its power over the state. As the video shows, outside of Mexico City, where there are more liberal abortion laws, women cannot safely get an abortion even if the pregnancy comes as a result of sexual assault. In cases where a woman wants an abortion and claims her pregnancy is due to rape, the city's bureaucracy will not allow her to get through the paperwork (in fact, the necessary paperwork doesn't even exist). Moreover, medical doctors frequently will not perform abortions since their religious beliefs interfere with the practice.

So what's the result? Abortion is heavily criminalised, to the extent that women who have had an abortion have been incarcerated. This inconsistent response to a particular behavior cuts across different countries, or as this example illustrates, within a country. A social response to the behavior depends on the society's social values and norms, and in this case, the church's ability to enforce those values and norms through formal (i.e., state) institutions (e.g., hospitals/medical clinics, criminal justice system, government).

The other point is the gender piece. It takes two to tango, and as this piece states, the tango is not always consensual. Presumably perpetrators of sexual assault, if caught and deemed guilty, will be punished appropriately (okay, we know that shouldn't be assumed, but let's just do so for now). On the other hand, what if it was consensual? What happens to the male party if a woman goes through an abortion and is punished? What if part of the reason she wants an abortion is because he refuses to support her and her child? What if they're in agreement that it's just not the right time to have a child, why is she the only party punished?

Again, because society deems her deviant, not him. Check out the 3-minute video:

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