Abortion Activism Courts Global Health

Mexico Supreme Court Rules to Decriminalize Abortion

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the criminalization of abortion is unconstitutional in a unanimous vote Tuesday. This decision sets a precedent to decriminalize abortion throughout the country, which has the second-largest Catholic population in the world.

At question was a law in the northern state of Coahuila which stated people who had an abortion, or those who helped them obtain the abortion, could go to prison for up to three years. Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled this law unconstitutional.

“Today is a historic day for the rights of all Mexican women,” said Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar. “It is a watershed in the history of the rights of all women, especially the most vulnerable.”

The ruling comes after years of work from abortion rights groups and women’s rights groups across Mexico to decriminalize abortion. Their work has led to the decriminalization of abortion in several Mexican states such as Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Veracruz, as well as the capital city, Mexico City.  

Rebeca Ramos, the executive director of GIRE, a Mexican reproductive justice organization, called the ruling “an enormous step toward legalization in the entire country.”

“We are absolutely ready to present legal challenges to the denial of safe and legal abortion,” she said. 

The ruling does not immediately legalize abortion in Mexico. However, it sets a precedent to legalize abortion in the country and allows people who have been arrested or imprisoned for having had an abortion to sue the state to have their charges dropped.

According to a study conducted by GIRE, Mexico held over 500 criminal trials for people accused of having an abortion between 2007 and 2016.

“Never again will a woman or a person with the capacity to carry a child be criminally prosecuted,” said Justice Luis Maria Aguilar. “Today the threat of imprisonment and stigma that weigh on people who freely decide to terminate their pregnancy are banished.”

Women’s rights movements across Latin America have made important reproductive rights gains in recent years. Last year, Argentina legalized abortion after years of protests and activism from abortion rights advocates in the country. Mexico’s ruling is expected to influence abortion policy in other Latin American countries as well.

“This will not only have an impact in Mexico,” said Melissa Ayala, GIRE’s coordinator for litigation. “It will set the agenda for the entire Latin American region.”

Sources: CNN 9/7/21; New York Times 9/7/21; Washington Post 9/7/21; New York Times 9/7/21

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