Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) has ruled that the legal system that penalizes abortion in the Federal Criminal Code is unconstitutional since it violates the human rights of women and people with the capacity to gestate.
The ruling, announced on Wednesday, September 7, 2023, applies to all 32 states of Mexico, where abortion was previously criminalized in most cases, except for rape, health risks, or fetal defects.
The court’s decision was unanimous, with 11 judges voting in favor of declaring the articles that criminalize abortion as invalid. The ruling was based on a case brought by the state of Coahuila, where a woman was sentenced to three years in prison for having an abortion in 2016. The court found that the state’s law violated the right to health, privacy, personal autonomy, and reproductive freedom of women and people with the capacity to gestate.
The ruling also opens the door for the federal healthcare system to provide abortions, as well as for women who have been prosecuted or imprisoned for having an abortion to seek justice and reparations. According to the Group for Information on Reproductive Choice (GIRE), a Mexican NGO that advocates for reproductive rights, more than 4,600 women have been prosecuted for abortion-related crimes in Mexico since 2000.
The ruling has been welcomed by women’s rights groups and activists, who have been campaigning for years to end the stigma and legal barriers that women face when seeking an abortion in Mexico. They celebrated the ruling as a historic victory for women’s dignity and autonomy. “Today is a day of celebration for all Mexican women. It is a day when we are recognized as full citizens. It is a day when the conservative forces that wanted to control our bodies and our lives are defeated,” said Verónica Cruz, director of Las Libres, a feminist organization that provides legal and psychological support to women who have had abortions.
However, the ruling may also face opposition from conservative politicians and the Catholic Church, which have a strong influence in Mexico and oppose abortion on moral grounds. The National Action Party (PAN), the main opposition party in Mexico, expressed its rejection of the ruling and said it would defend life from conception to natural death. The Catholic Church also condemned the ruling and said it would continue to promote a culture of life and respect for human dignity.
The ruling is part of a trend towards loosening abortion restrictions in Latin America, where several countries have legalized or decriminalized abortion in recent years, such as Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay and Argentina. However, some countries still have strict bans on abortion, such as El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy group on reproductive health, Latin America has one of the highest rates of unsafe abortions in the world, with an estimated 5.4 million unsafe abortions performed annually. Unsafe abortions can lead to serious health complications or death for women.