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Mexico’s Supreme Court Invalidates Federal Abortion Penalties, Significantly Expanding Access

September 7, 2023

In a groundbreaking decision, Mexico’s Supreme Court has invalidated all federal criminal penalties for abortion, marking a significant milestone in reproductive rights. This decision opens access to safe and legal abortions for millions of individuals within the country’s extensive public health system. It’s worth noting that this ruling comes in stark contrast to the direction taken by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, it’s essential to understand that Mexico’s legal landscape regarding abortion varies across its states. While this ruling eliminates federal criminal penalties, abortion remains a criminal offense in 20 out of Mexico’s 32 states. This distinction sets it apart from the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which established women’s access to abortion across the United States.

The Supreme Court’s decision means that government healthcare providers will no longer face federal penalties for offering abortion services, as the court deemed such penalties unconstitutional violations of women’s human rights. This move will have an immediate impact on the millions of Mexican women who rely on healthcare services provided by the national government. Furthermore, it equips abortion rights advocates with a potent tool to challenge state-level abortion restrictions.

Nevertheless, many Mexican women work in the informal economy, making them less directly affected by this ruling. While abortions are not commonly prosecuted as criminal acts in Mexico, many doctors refuse to perform them due to legal constraints.

The ruling has elicited a mix of reactions on social media, with organizations like Mexico’s National Institute for Women celebrating it as a “big step” toward gender equality. Senator Olga Sánchez Cordero, a former Supreme Court justice, emphasized that this decision represents progress toward a more just society.

However, opponents of expanded abortion access in Mexico, such as Irma Barrientos, director of the Civil Association for the Rights of the Conceived, vowed to continue their fight. Similar to the United States, the issue of abortion remains polarized, and some argue for the protection of the right to life from the moment of conception.

Across Latin America, there has been a growing trend to relax abortion restrictions, often referred to as a “green wave,” in reference to the green bandanas symbolizing the fight for abortion rights. Mexico City became the first jurisdiction in Mexico to decriminalize abortion 16 years ago, sparking a gradual process of decriminalization in other states.

What this recent ruling theoretically obligates federal agencies to do is provide abortion care to patients, according to Fernanda Díaz de León, a legal expert from the women’s rights group IPAS. Removing the federal ban also eliminates a tool used by care providers to deny abortions in states where the procedure is no longer a crime. However, concerns persist about potential denials, especially in more conservative regions.

This decision in Mexico aligns with a broader global trend of reevaluating and reforming abortion laws, with countries like Argentina and Colombia recently legalizing the procedure. In contrast, the United States has witnessed a wave of state-level abortion bans and restrictions, reflecting political divisions within the country.

While this ruling is undoubtedly a significant step forward for reproductive rights in Mexico, challenges and resistance may continue in various regions of the country as the impact of the decision unfolds.

Credit: AP

 

 

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