When Joselyn turned 15 she was already two months pregnant. Her mother, a housemaid who worked in another city, came back to her tiny village in a rural area of Puebla, Mexico, for her daughter’s quinceañera and her abortion. They had the party celebrating her 15-year birthday and so-called “entry into womanhood” first, and the next day they induced the abortion. It was bloody and painful. She retched on the floor for hours. Her mother gave her over-the-counter medication for the pain and tried to keep her fever down. After six hours, the fetus passed and it was over — or it should have been. The pain didn’t stop, and neither did the bleeding.
She bled for days and ran a high temperature; she cramped and vomited. Her mother took her to a local clinic, where a general practitioner prescribed antibiotics and more anti-inflammatory medicine. But he advised not to go to the nearest hospital because abortion is illegal in the state of Puebla and she could go to jail. Plus, he added, she’s going to hell already: “Let God decide what to do with her.”
What does a girl in a small town in Mexico have to do with the president of the US today? I’ll tell you: the Catholic Church wants to punish Joe Biden for supporting a woman’s right to choose.
From Alaska to Argentina, women and girls around the world are in a life-and-death battle for their reproductive rights. And it’s institutions like the Catholic Church that want to keep them bloody and retching at home. And they’re getting bolder. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Catholic bishops are debating whether to pressure the president, a practicing Catholic, to stop taking communion because of his stance on abortion rights.
I come from a family of women marked tragically by abortion. A botched abortion killed my great-grandmother. Women close to me had to travel to Mexico alone in the 70’s to get an abortion because it still wasn’t easily accessible, or affordable, in the US.
Worldwide, there are about 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, with more than 40 percent living in Latin America. But that’s changing and for good reasons. For one thing, the numbers just don’t add up when you try and marginalize or restrict the rights of large populations. Women make up 49 percent of the world population, accordingto the WorldBank and in the US, they make up over 52 percent. LGBTQ people in the US comprise around ninemillion people, which is more than the population of New Jersey. Who is going to come to Mass?
I remain dumbfounded every time I read or hear men — priests, bishops, male Republican politicians — talk about restricting women’s access to basic human rights like healthcare. And if the Catholic Church is so worried about losing followers, then shouldn’t they be reexamining their stances on fundamental human rights for marginalized groups, rather than alienating them?
It’s clear that the Catholic Church is at war with women, and LGBTQ people, and has been for a long time. It will be up to women and their allies to fight back against belligerent medieval misogynists that want to send us back to the Dark Ages with bloodied rags and secret burials. And it will be up to Biden to decide where he stands on all of this if those bishops do attempt to pressure him into changing his religious practices. Will he stay firm? Or will he stay silent, and let down the people who turned up for him at the ballot box?
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