The Supreme Court of Mexico declared on Tuesday unconstitutional to criminalize abortion, a ruling considered historic by judges and feminists that does not mean that the termination of pregnancy is legal in Mexico but opens the doors for legal changes in that direction.
The high court unanimously approved the annulment of several articles of a law in the northern state of Coahuila where abortion is considered a crime and both women and personnel who could help them are criminalized.
The court ruling will immediately affect that state but sets an important precedent because it establishes a “mandatory criterion for all judges in the country” that must act in the same sense if they have to decide on an abortion case, said the president of the Court, Arturo Zaldívar.
“From now on it will not be possible, without violating the criteria of the Court and the Constitution, to prosecute any woman who has an abortion in the cases that this court has considered valid,” added Zaldívar.
The detail of the assumptions will be clear when the sentence is published, but everything indicates that the decriminalization will affect the interruption of pregnancy up to 12 weeks, which is the period in which abortion is allowed in the four states in which this practice is legal: Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Hidalgo.
In the remaining 28 states, it is still penalized, except in the case of rape, and some regions also allow it when the mother’s health is in danger.
The Supreme Court had ruled in the past in favor of specific amparos filed by women who had seen their rights violated, for example, by being punished even if they had been violated. But according to Rebeca Ramos, director of the non-governmental reproductive rights organization GIRE, this is the first time that the magistrates have debated the substance of the matter: whether abortion should be considered a crime or not.
The judicial resolution has concrete effects in Coahuila, where, for example, a private clinic could now offer these services without the authorities being able to criminalize it.
It also “breaks down barriers,” affirmed the lawyer and activist Verónica Cruz, because it sends the message that women cannot be criminalized for having an abortion, something that seemed entrenched in the local imagination and that stigmatized the most disadvantaged: women. poor or indigenous.
Some analysts trust that the ruling will invite local congresses to review their laws so that little by little abortion is legalized and policies are put in place to guarantee that service. However, activists like Cruz believe that politicians cannot be trusted and that progress can only be made if the feminist movement continues to press.
Today there are no women imprisoned in Mexico for having an abortion, but there are some 4,600 investigation folders open throughout the country for this crime, explained the lawyer, whose collective “Las Libres” managed to free the last ones who were in prison in one one of the most conservative states in the country, Guanajuato.
“In Mexico we have no possibility to either legalize or decriminalize at once (at once) it has to be state by state,” she said. That is why he bet that civil society articulates a coordinated strategy at the national level that will end crime region by region by resorting to open cases and manage to corner politicians so that “there is no way not to legislate”, since that would be seen as “politically incorrect”.
The changes, however, could take years. The advantage is that once the penal codes have been modified, the Health System could perform abortions because it would already be prepared for such practices.
The opposition will be strong led above all by the Catholic Church and the most conservative sectors of the country.
While the Court debated, dozens of faithful prayed kneeling before its doors and, in the afternoon, the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate recovered tweets sent before the approval of abortion in Hidalgo. “That your option for life is not conditioned by an ideology, but is motivated by faith, hope and love,” she said.
From the ruling party, Morena, the court’s decision was celebrated, although President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, very conservative in morals, has always avoided expressly pronouncing on the issue, claiming that this matter corresponds to each state.
For its part, the conservative National Action Party reiterated its rejection of abortion because “we are in favor of the defense of life from conception to natural death,” it said in a statement, and asked that conscientious objection be guaranteed ” for ethical, moral or religious reasons ”.
Magistrate Margarita Ríos Farjat criticized, however, that the argument of being in favor of life is used to violate women’s rights and denounced the stigmas that still weigh on a woman who aborts, who is branded as “ignorant”. of “bad or selfish, because good women complete the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption” or of “irresponsible,” he said. For GIRE, what was agreed by the Court “is a reflection of a historic struggle of the feminist movement for legal abortion , safe and free ”. “We hope that throughout the country women and people with the ability to carry a child have the conditions and freedom to determine their reproductive destiny.”
In Latin America there seems to be a trend: in December 2020, Argentina decriminalized abortion and thus joined other countries. that already accepted it as Uruguay and Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic forbid it without exceptions and punish it with jail.