Nationwide Decriminalization of Abortion Ruled by Mexico’s Supreme Court

by Sophia Chen
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Mexico's Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion

This Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court effectively decriminalized abortion throughout the nation, building upon its earlier decision two years ago which had ruled that abortion was not a criminal act in a northern Mexican state.

The preceding judgment had initiated a gradual process of state-by-state decriminalization of abortion. Just last week, Aguascalientes joined the list as the twelfth Mexican state to decriminalize the act. Henceforth, courts in states where abortion remains criminalized must consider this most recent ruling from the highest court.

The Supreme Court announced via X, formerly known as Twitter, that it had rendered the legal framework in the Federal Penal Code that criminalized abortion unconstitutional. The court stated that such laws infringe upon the human rights of women and individuals capable of gestation.

This groundbreaking ruling comes in the context of a broader movement across Latin America to ease abortion restrictions, even as some regions in the United States are moving in the opposite direction, tightening access to abortion services. In fact, some American women have already sought assistance from Mexican reproductive rights activists to obtain abortifacients.

It was fifteen years ago when Mexico City pioneered the decriminalization of abortion, becoming the first jurisdiction in Mexico to take this step.

The Information Group for Chosen Reproduction (GIRE, as per its Spanish acronym) reported that the Supreme Court’s decision means that the relevant sections of the federal penal code criminalizing abortion are now rendered inoperative.

According to a statement from the non-governmental organization, neither women nor healthcare providers can now face legal penalties for facilitating or undergoing abortions. Additionally, GIRE noted that federal public health services, as well as other federal health institutions, are now mandated to provide abortion services to those who seek them. The court has also directed that abortion be expunged from the federal penal code as a criminal offense.

This shift in Mexico is part of a larger trend across Latin America, often characterized as a “green wave,” where countries have been increasingly lifting abortion restrictions. This wave has been particularly evident in Argentina, which legalized abortion in 2020, and more recently in Colombia, a traditionally conservative country, which decriminalized abortion in 2022.

However, activists remain concerned that these legal advancements may not necessarily translate into increased access to abortion services, particularly in countries with deep-rooted conservative and religious values.

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