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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Mexico Supreme Court decriminalises abortion

In what activists are saying is "victory and justice for Mexican women", Mexico's Supreme Court has thrown out all federal criminal penalties for abortion.

A woman holds up a sign with a message that reads in Spanish; "I will decide" as she joins a march demanding legal, free and safe abortions for all women, marking International Safe Abortion Day, in Mexico City Image AAP

Mexico's Supreme Court has thrown out all federal criminal penalties for abortion, ruling that national laws prohibiting the procedure are unconstitutional and violate women's rights.

The sweeping decision has extended Latin American's trend of widening abortion access.

The high court on Wednesday ordered abortion be removed from the federal penal code, and a reproduction rights group said the decision would require the federal public health service and all federal health institutions to offer abortion to anyone who requests it.

"No woman or pregnant person, nor any health worker, will be able to be punished for abortion," the Information Group for Chosen Reproduction, known by its Spanish initials GIRE, said in a statement.

Celebration soon spilled out on social media.

"Today is a day of victory and justice for Mexican women!" Mexico's National Institute for Women wrote in a message on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The government organisation noted it was a "big step" towards gender equality.

The court said on X that "the legal system that criminalised abortion" in Mexican federal law was unconstitutional because it "violates the human rights of women and people with the ability to gestate."

The decision came two years after the court ruled that abortion was not a crime in one northern state.

That ruling set off a slow state-by-state process of decriminalising it.

Last week, the central state of Aguascalientes became the 12th state to drop criminal penalties.

Judges in states that still criminalise abortion will have to take account of the top court's ruling.

Abortion-rights activists will have to continue seeking legalisation state by state, though Wednesday's decision should make that easier.

State legislatures can also act on their own to erase abortion penalties.

Across Latin America, countries have made moves to lift abortion restrictions in recent years, a trend often referred to as a "green wave," in reference to the green bandanas carried by women protesting for abortion rights in the region.

The changes in Latin America stand in sharp contrast to increasing restrictions on abortion in parts of the United States.

Some American women were already seeking help from Mexican abortion rights activists to obtain pills used to end pregnancies.

Mexico City was the first Mexican jurisdiction to decriminalise abortion 15 years ago.

After decades of work by activists across the region, the trend picked up speed in Argentina, which in 2020 legalised the procedure.

In 2022, Colombia, a highly conservative country, did the same.

The US Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that provided a right to abortion nationwide.

Since then, most states led by conservative lawmakers and governors have adopted bans or tighter restrictions.

The fact that the US government is politically divided makes a nationwide ban or legalisation unlikely, at least in the short term.


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