The Mexican Supreme Court has invalidated all federal criminal penalties for abortion. Aligning with a growing trend in the region to widen access to the procedure. The decision, however, leaves a complex tapestry of varying state-level restrictions intact.
The high court, in a ruling issued on Wednesday, mandated the removal of abortion from the federal penal code. This monumental decision now obligates the federal public health service. All federal health institutions provide abortion services to anyone who requests them.
This momentous shift will significantly expand access to abortion for millions of Mexicans. Particularly those who rely on the Social Security Service and other federal institutions for healthcare, primarily workers in the formal economy.
Under this ruling, “No woman or pregnant person, nor any health worker, will be able to be punished for abortion.” Declared the Information Group for Chosen Reproduction, known by its Spanish initials GIRE, in a statement.
State Abortion Laws Remain Unchanged
While abortions are not frequently prosecuted as crimes in Mexico, many doctors have hesitated to provide the service, citing the existing legal framework.
It’s crucial to note that approximately 20 Mexican states still criminalize abortion, and these state laws remain unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision. Nevertheless, abortion rights advocates are expected to appeal to state judges to align their laws with the principles laid out in the ruling.
The news of the Supreme Court’s decision swiftly reverberated across social media platforms. Many celebrate the victory of women’s rights and gender equality.
“Today is a day of victory and justice for Mexican women!” exclaimed Mexico’s National Institute for Women on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter). The government organization hailed the decision as a “significant step” towards gender equality.
Sen. Olga Sánchez Cordero, a former Supreme Court justice, praised the ruling as an advancement towards “a more just society in which the rights of all are respected.” She called upon Mexico’s Congress to enact legislation in response.
However, within Mexico’s deeply religious society, there were voices of dissent. Irma Barrientos, director of the Civil Association for the Rights of the Conceived, voiced opposition and vowed to continue the fight against expanded abortion access.
“We’re not going to stop,” Barrientos declared. “Let’s remember what happened in the United States. After 40 years, the Supreme Court reversed its abortion decision. And we’re not going to stop until Mexico guarantees the right to life from the moment of conception.”
Implementation Challenges and Prospects
The Supreme Court explained on X that the “legal system that criminalized abortion” in Mexican federal law was unconstitutional because it “violates the human rights of women and people with the ability to gestate.”
This landmark decision comes two years after the court ruled that abortion was not a crime in one northern state. Setting off a gradual state-by-state process of decriminalization.
Just last week, the central state of Aguascalientes became the 12th state to abolish criminal penalties for abortion.
While abortion rights activists will continue to pursue legalization on a state-by-state basis, Wednesday’s ruling is expected to facilitate this process. State legislatures can also independently act to eliminate abortion penalties.
However, it’s important to note that this ruling does not guarantee immediate access to abortion for every Mexican woman. Fernanda Díaz de León, sub-director and legal expert for women’s rights group IPAS, explained that it obligates federal agencies to provide care to patients. It is likely to have cascading effects in the near future.