Supreme Court paves way for decriminalization of abortion in Mexico

“Never again should a woman be prosecuted for having an abortion”, assured, Tuesday, September 7, Luis Maria Aguilar, judge of the Supreme Court of Mexico. The highest judicial body in the country declared unconstitutional the criminalization of voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) in a unanimous vote qualified as“Historical” in feminist circles. A local decision with national scope in this still very Catholic Federal Republic, where women who abort previously risked heavy prison sentences.

The ten senior magistrates present annulled several articles of the penal code of the State of Coahuila (north) which penalized abortion – the sentences ranging from one to three years in prison. The judges considered that the measure violated the Constitution in the name of respect for the right of women to dispose of their bodies. The sentence applies only to the State of Coahuila, but the unanimous vote establishes a case law with the judicial institutions of the country.

Read also Criminalization of abortion ruled unconstitutional in Mexico

“One more step in the fight for equality [des femmes], the dignity and the full exercise of their rights “, Estimated the President of the Court, Arturo Zaldivar. The gestation limit allowed for an abortion should be specified when the sentence is published, the date of which has not been set. But the judges referred to the period of twelve weeks of pregnancy during which abortion is allowed in four of the 32 federal states that have legalized abortion. Mexico City was a pioneer in 2007, followed twelve years later by the State of Oaxaca (southwest), then those of Hidalgo (center) and Veracruz (southeast) this year.

Up to six years in prison

But in the rest of the country, abortion is still prohibited, except in cases of rape. Some states also allow it when the health of the pregnant woman is at stake. In other cases, the sentences go up to six years in prison. Between 2015 and 2020, 572 investigations were carried out across the country, according to the federal authorities, who do not communicate the number of convicted. But the Reproductive Choice Information Group (GIRE) estimates the number of women affected at several hundred. And illegal abortions represent the fourth leading cause of death during pregnancy in Mexico.

“This is the first time that senior magistrates have looked into the question of whether or not aborting could be a crime”, welcomes Isabel Fulda, Deputy Director of IWRM, while stressing, however, that “The sentence does not establish decriminalization as such: only the local Congress of a State can reform its penal code, even if, in fact, the judges will no longer be able to condemn a person who aborts”.

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