Mexico’s highest court unanimously ruled that previous laws banning abortion were unconstitutional and breached human rights.
On Wednesday, the court “resolved that the legal system that criminalizes abortion in the Federal Criminal Code is unconstitutional, as it violates the human rights of women and the capacity to gestate.” In the press release, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) asserted:
“The Chamber held that the criminalization of abortion constitutes an act of gender-based violence and discrimination, as it perpetuates the stereotype that women and people with the capacity to get pregnant can only freely exercise their sexuality to procreate and reinforces the gender role that imposes motherhood as a compulsory destiny.”
This federal ban is part of the growing trend of legalizing abortion in Latin America. The Mexico City government was the first Latin American jurisdiction to authorize voluntary abortion in 2007. In 2020, Argentina legalized the procedure, and in 2022, Colombia, another culturally conservative country, legalized the procedure as well. In 2021, SCJN unanimously ruled penalizing abortion was unconstitutional. Last week, the state of Aguascalientes became the 12th state in Mexico to decriminalize the procedure.
The ruling means that more than 70 percent of women in Mexico who are covered by the national healthcare system – people living in poverty, federal employees, or salaried workers who pay social security – will have access to legal abortion. Mexico’s federal hospitals and clinics will be required to offer abortion to those who seek it. Removing the federal ban takes away another excuse used by care providers who deny abortions in states where the procedure is no longer a crime.
However, abortion activists and feminist organizations must still continue the fight. Fernanda Díaz de León, sub-director and legal expert for women’s rights group IPAS, as well as officials at other feminist organizations worry that women, particularly in more conservative areas, may still be denied abortions. Even though penalizing abortion in Mexico is unconstitutional, 20 states have yet to amend local legislation.
Irma Barrientos, director of the Civil Association for the Rights of the Conceived, said opponents will continue the fight against expanded abortion access. “We’re not going to stop,” Barrientos said. “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.”
The Feminist Majority Foundation is dedicated to the fight for reproductive freedom and is eager to support Mexicans in their push for abortion access.