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Mexico’s abortion decision could make waves beyond its borders

But the shockwaves sent across the region by the abortion court ruling will be felt for years to come.

A women’s rights leader consulted by CNN said the unanimous decision, which found the criminalization of abortion unconstitutional, could make Mexico a destination for women in the United States – where abortion was recently strictly limited to Texas – and even a model for other countries in Latin America, a region that historically has not been favorable to women seeking abortions.

Mexico’s highest court has been called on to consider a law enacted in the country’s northern state of Coahuila which states that women who have an abortion can face a sentence of up to three years imprisonment and a fine.

In a unanimous vote, the court declared the local law unconstitutional, a decision that does not automatically legalize abortion in the country, according to analysts consulted by CNN. Pending cases still need to be heard at the local level, and laws restricting abortion in Mexican states are still in effect.

However, it sets a powerful precedent for the rest of the country, which the Supreme Court justices acknowledged when they made the decision. Ana Margarita Ríos Farjat, one of only three women on the bench, also spoke out forcefully against the Coahuila law before voting.

“I am against the stigmatization of those who make this decision [to undergo an abortion] which, I believe, is difficult at the beginning, because of the moral and social charges. It should not be burdened by law either. No one gets pregnant on purpose thinking about having an abortion later, ”she said.

“Never again will a woman or a person with the capacity to bear a child be criminally prosecuted”, concluded Judge Luis María Aguilar later, hailing the decision as “a historic step”.

The decision received praise from women’s rights and reproductive rights groups, but was criticized by conservatives and the Mexican Catholic Church. While the court appears to have turned resolutely to the left, the country remains polarized. Mexican public opinion is still deeply divided on the issue of abortion.

Mexico’s abortion decision could make waves beyond its borders
A poll conducted before the decision by the national newspaper “El Financiero” showed that 53 percent of Mexicans opposed the law allowing women to have abortions, while 45 percent agreed that Mexican law should authorize the procedure.

This reality was reflected in interviews conducted by CNN the morning after the ruling was delivered in the streets of Mexico City.

“A woman should not be deprived of her right to decide for herself let alone be imprisoned for something she decides about her own body,” said a woman walking on central Reforma avenue, who refused to give his name.

“I agree that women should do what they want with their bodies, but not on this issue. We are talking about a human being. We must not do this immediately. [by having an abortion]said another who also declined to be named.

A long awaited day

On the day of the judgment, supporters and those against abortion demonstrated peacefully in front of the Mexican Supreme Court building. Some knelt and prayed, or held fetal figurines high up, while others held up banners demanding safe and legal abortions, describing their cause as a “struggle against a patriarchal society”.

The decision is a blow to much of Mexico’s large and deeply rooted Catholic community. Before it was heard, Bishop Jesús José Herrera Quiñones of the Diocese of Nuevo Casas Grandes, made a statement on behalf of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference: “We would like to remind you all that a human being, conceived by a father and a mother, whose life begins at the moment of conception, must be recognized in her dignity at all stages of life and deserves the same protection under the law in the face of acts which could put this person in danger ”, a writes Herrera Quiñones.
Mexico’s abortion decision could make waves beyond its borders
The day after the judgment, Eduardo Verástegui, a Mexican actor turned conservative activist, criticized the court’s decision in a emotional tweet pinned to their official account. “Mexico is crying today. Mexico is shaking today. It is raining inconsolably in many parts of the country and the Earth is creaking. Today, thousands of Mexican babies have been sentenced to die. Mexico is crying today; Mexico trembles for its daughters and sons who will never be born, ”wrote Verástegui.

But history is made. María Antonieta Alcalde, director of Ipas / Central America and Mexico, a women’s rights group that also advocates for reproductive rights, said the court’s decision was the result of years of lobbying and advocacy by organizations like hers in an effort to make abortion safe and legal. in Mexico.

“Even though the decision was expected, the positions of the various judges, the clarity of their message and a unanimous decision was something we did not expect,” said Alcalde.

She stressed that while the court ruling applies specifically to the state of Coahuila, it sends a message to all states. In the Mexican federal system, states can enact their own laws, but a Supreme Court ruling supersedes all local laws.

Alcalde also said the move could also have ripple effects across the Mexican border, particularly as it relates to Texas, where a controversial law banning abortions after six weeks went into effect on September 1.
Mexico’s abortion decision could make waves beyond its borders

“Texas is moving in the other direction. What could happen is that more Texan women decide to go to Mexico. It’s a bit of the opposite of what happened before. A lot of Mexican women went to Mexico. United States to have a safe. And legal abortion. What we will see in the future, especially if the new law is upheld, is that some women from Texas may travel to Mexico to have an abortion safe and legal, ”Alcalde said.

Before the ruling, abortion was only legal in all states of Mexico when the pregnancy was the result of rape. In giving her opinion, Judge Ana Margarita Ríos said that – legally or not – between 750,000 and one million abortions are performed each year in Mexico.

Mexico’s abortion decision could make waves beyond its borders

The move could mark a turning point for the greater Latin American region, which the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank dedicated to analyzing international affairs in the Western Hemisphere, describes as “one of the most restrictive regions. of the world. when it comes to reproductive health laws and policies, especially abortion. “

Abortion is completely banned in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Suriname, according to a February analysis from the organization.

The same analysis notes that abortion is only allowed in several countries under strict conditions – usually when the pregnancy is the result of rape, involves a fatal fetal abnormality, or poses a risk to the health of the mother – and is allowed “on request”. “in Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana, French Guyana and Argentina.