Mexico’s Supreme Court Votes to Decriminalize Abortion

“This is the first time that I have heard the judges show a favorable discourse toward women, and against criminalizing them,” said one expert.

Sep 7 2021, 9:02pm

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court took a major step toward decriminalizing abortion on Tuesday, a significant shift in a country where the procedure has been illegal for more than a century.

The legal precedent also marks a stark contrast to the enactment of one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws enacted across the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas last week.

Although the decision by the court currently applies only to the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, which borders Texas, judges across Mexico will have to take it into account, legal experts said. The ruling came as a result of a 2018 challenge to Coahuila’s law criminalizing abortion.

“This is the first time that I have heard the judges show a favorable discourse toward women, and against criminalizing them,” said Fernanda Díaz de León Ballesteros, policy and advocacy coordinator for IPAS, which advocates for access to abortion and contraception. 

“The Supreme Court has stated that its clearly unconstitutional to penalize women that have abortions voluntarily.”

Abortion has been illegal in Mexico for more than a century. Hundreds of women in Mexico have faced criminal charges since 2000 for suspected cases of abortion, and dozens are in prison on homicide charges accused of aborting or provoking miscarriages. Thousands more have been investigated by the police, as well as hundreds of men suspected of helping women obtain abortions.

Judges on Mexico’s Supreme Court spoke passionately in favor of decriminalizing abortions during a hearing Tuesday.

“I am against stigmatizing those who make this decision,” said Judge Ana Margarita Ríos Farjat. “It seems to me that it is already difficult and tough in itself due to the moral, social, individual and spiritual burden, and it should no longer be because of the force of law. Nobody gets pregnant in the exercise of their autonomy and then aborts.”

Over the past few years, Mexico has been slowly inching toward the decriminalization of abortion, propelled by a strong activist movement and shifting politics toward the left. In September 2019, lawmakers in the southern state of Oaxaca approved a law decriminalizing abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, becoming the second jurisdiction in the country to do so, after Mexico City.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is not seen as a champion of abortion. During his campaign, he forged a coalition with an evangelical Christian party that opposes it. Once in office, he suggested that legalization of abortion could be put to a public vote, triggering an outpouring of criticism from abortion-rights activists who said women’s rights should not up be for referendum.

Tuesday’s ruling stands in marked contrast to the anti-abortion movement gaining steam in the United States. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Texas law to go into effect that bans the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Tagged:

abortion, world politics, worldnews

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