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Mexico rules criminalizing abortion is unconstitutional

September 7, 2021

Mexico's Supreme Court has declared that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional. Women's health and human rights advocates have lauded the ruling.

Abortion rights activists take part in a demonstration in support of legal and safe abortion in Mexico City, Mexico September 28, 2018
Women in Mexico won a hard-fought right to an abortion, which is still restricted in much of Latin AmericaImage: Reuters/E. Garrido

Mexico's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that criminalizing abortion is unconstitutional.

The ruling is seen as a victory for women's health and human rights advocates.

"This is a historic step for the rights of women," said Mexican Supreme Court Justice Luis Maria Aguilar.

What are the details of the ruling?

The decision annuls several provisions of a law from the northern state of Coahuila, which had made abortion a criminal act. 

Although it only applies to Coahuila at first, the decision establishes "obligatory criteria for all of the country's judges,'' said court President Arturo Zaldivar.

Four states — Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Hidalgo — allow abortion in most circumstances. The act carries penalties in all the other 28, with some exceptions.

Why is the ruling significant?

The unanimous vote comes days after the US state of Texas, just north of the border, enacted a strict anti-abortion law. The move could lead to women in Texas going to Mexico to end their pregnancies.

It also represents the latest ruling on abortion by the country's Supreme Court.

The court had previously ruled in favor of women who had been imprisoned or had their rights violated for receiving abortions.

And in July, it decreed that a state law limiting abortions to the first three months of pregnancy for rape victims was unconstitutional.

Enforcing such a time limit breached the woman's human rights, according to the court.

Tuesday's ruling makes Mexico the fifth Latin American country to decriminalize abortion — after Argentina, Cuba, Guyana and Uruguay.

The decision is also a major milestone for the socially conservative country, which has the second-largest Catholic population in the world.

ar,wd/rt (AP, Reuters)