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In landmark ruling, Mexican Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion

todaySeptember 9, 2021

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s supreme court voted unanimously on Tuesday to decriminalize abortion, a striking step in a country with one of the world’s largest Catholic populations and a move that contrasts sharply with tighter restrictions introduced across the border in Texas. […]

The vote comes as a powerful women’s movement is transforming Mexico, where female politicians now make up half of Congress. While abortion remains illegal in most of Latin America, there has been a surge in demonstrations demanding more rights for women, particularly focused on rising violence.

“This will not only have an impact in Mexico; it will set the agenda for the entire Latin American region,” said Melissa Ayala, coordinator of litigation for the Mexican feminist organization GIRE. She called the ruling “a historic moment for feminists and activists” who have pressed for women’s rights for years in Mexico’s state legislatures, health ministries and law schools.

Up to this time only three of Mexico’s federal entities had broadly legalized the procedure (which permitted abortions into the 12th week of pregnancy), while others maintained severe restrictions—some of them, like the state of Coahuila, prohibiting it altogether. In reaching its unanimous ruling, the court ruled that Coahuila must remove its sanctions for abortion from its criminal code. According to advocates, this ruling paves the way for legalization throughout Mexico and will also likely result in the immediate release of women who have been jailed for obtaining an abortion in that country.

Maria Verza, reporting for the Associated Press via ABC News, quoted the court’s president on the implications of Tuesday’s ruling:

[I]t establishes a historic precedent and “obligatory criteria for all of the country’s judges,” compelling them to act the same way in similar cases, said court President Arturo Zaldívar. “From now on, you will not be able to, without violating the court’s criteria and the constitution, charge any woman who aborts under the circumstances this court has ruled as valid.”

Women in Mexico, a country that is 82% Catholic, now have more freedom to make their own reproductive decisions than pregnant people in Texas. 

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