Mexico’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that criminalising abortion is unconstitutional, a decision that is expected to pave the way for the legalisation of abortion across the nation.
In a 10-0 ruling, the nation’s top court decided that the state of Coahuila must remove abortion from its criminal code, setting a precedent that will have flow on effects across Mexico. The ruling follows a grassroots push from women across the conservative, majority Catholic nation, who have taken to the streets in recent years demanding control over their bodies.
“Today is a historic day for the rights of all Mexican women,” Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar said after the ruling. “It is a watershed in the history of the rights of all women, especially the most vulnerable.”
The decision comes amid a “green wave” of abortion decriminalisation across Latin America, thanks to women in countries like Argentina who have used green handkerchiefs as symbols of their fight for women’s rights in protests in recent years. Argentina decriminalised abortion up to 14 weeks in December last year.
The progress in Latin America, most recently in Mexico, comes against a backdrop of recent restrictions in abortion access in the United States. Last week, Texas banned abortion after 6 weeks and incentivised citizens to pursue legal action against those who aide women seeking a pregnancy termination.
Executive Director of the Women’s Equality Centre Paula Avila-Guillen said the decision by the Supreme Court in Mexico has “ripple effects beyond the Mexican state of Coahuila and applies across Mexico”.
“As of this moment, any Mexican state that criminalizes abortion is in direct defiance of the Federal Constitution,” she said in a statement. “As of this decision, all Mexican states where abortion is still criminalized are obligated to modify their legal frameworks to comply with the standard set by the Court.”
(1) The @SCJN decision has ripple effects beyond #Coahuila, and applies across #Mexico. As of this moment, any Mexican state that decriminalizes abortion is under direct defiance of the Federal Constitution.#AbortoLegalMexico #EsLey pic.twitter.com/3ltgS2VP3A— Paula Avila-Guillen (@pauavilg) September 7, 2021
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a devout Catholic, has not commented on the Supreme Court’s ruling, and has previously steered clear of any debate around abortion.
When asked a press conference on Tuesday about the ruling, López Obrador said: “we don’t want to encourage any confrontation. If it’s already at the Supreme Court, then let it be resolved there”.
The abortion ruling has now opened the door to the possibility of the release of incarcerated women, who were sent to prison for having abortions. To date, four Mexican states have decriminalised abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with Mexico City decriminalising abortion back in 2007.