MEXICO CITY, Sept. 7 (Reuters) – Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday that the abortion criminalization was unconstitutional, a major victory for women’s health and human rights advocates, even as some parts of the United States are passing stricter laws against this practice.
The ruling in the world’s second-largest Catholic country means courts can no longer prosecute abortion cases, and follows historic legalization of the law in Argentina, which took effect earlier this year.
Arturo Zaldivar, president of the Mexican Supreme Court, hailed the decision as “a watershed moment” for all women, especially the most vulnerable.
The court ruling follows a 2018 case challenging a criminal abortion law in Coahuila, a state in northern Mexico bordering Texas, which has just toughened its laws.
It also comes as a growing feminist movement has taken to the streets of Mexico to push for change, including calls to end anti-abortion laws on the books across much of the country.
At a protest in Saltillo, the state capital of Coahuila, women wearing green bandanas to symbolize the pro-choice movement hugged each other and shouted “Abortion is no longer a crime!” “
“We are very happy that abortion has been decriminalized, and now we want it to be legal,” said Karla Cihuatl, 26, one of the protesters, who belongs to the feminist organization Frente Feminista in Saltillo.
“This step broke the stigma a bit. But I think we still need to change the social aspect.”
With some 100 million Catholics, Mexico is the largest predominantly Catholic country after Brazil. The Catholic Church opposes all forms of abortion procedures.
Hundreds of Mexican women, most of them poor, have been prosecuted for abortion, while at least several dozen remain in jail.
Tuesday’s vote establishes a mandatory test for all judges in the country, which no longer allows prosecution of a woman who has had an abortion without violating court and constitutional criteria, Zaldivar said.
The Coahuila state government issued a statement saying the decision would have retroactive effects and that any woman jailed for abortion should be released “immediately.”
A number of US states have moved to restrict access to abortion, particularly Texas, which last week enacted a sweeping ban on the procedure after the first six weeks of pregnancy when the US Supreme Court- United refused to intervene. Read more
The Mexican move could cause American women in states like Texas to decide to travel south of the border to terminate their pregnancies.
In July, the state of Veracruz became just the fourth of 32 regions in Mexico to decriminalize abortion.
Left-wing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has carefully avoided taking a position on the issue, as he did again on Tuesday morning as the decision approached.
When asked at a press conference for his opinion on abortion, he dodged the question, saying he was in court.
“Due to my presidential office, I cannot expose myself to wear and tear, so I have to take care of myself, and this is a pretty controversial issue,” he said.
During his winning 2018 election campaign, he forged an alliance with a small political party founded by Christian conservatives known for their strong opposition to abortion.
Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City and Laura Gottesdiener in Saltillo, Coahuila; Additional reporting by David Alire Garcia; Written by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Sandra Maler
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