Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that it is unconstitutional to punish abortion, unanimously annulling several provisions of a law from Coahuila — a state on the Texas border — that had made abortion a criminal act.
It is a striking step for what represents the world's second biggest Catholic nation, after Brazil. The Washington Post says some three-quarters of all Mexicans identify as members of the faith, though the Mexican government is considered secular in nature.
It's also notable because Mexico abuts Texas, which just enacted a highly restrictive abortion rule that bars most abortions after about six weeks' gestation.
The decision will immediately only affect the northern border state, but it establishes “obligatory criteria for all of the country’s judges,” compelling them to act the same way in similar cases, said court President Arturo Zaldívar.
Only four states — Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Hidalgo — now allow abortion in most circumstances. The other 28 states penalize abortion with some exceptions.
The Supreme Court had previously ruled in favor of women who had been imprisoned or had their rights violated for abortions.
But Rebecca Ramos, director of the nongovernmental reproductive rights group GIRE, said this is the first time the justices have debated the fundamental question: Should abortion be considered a crime or not.
According to the Washington Post, four countries in Latin America allow abortion under virtually all circumstances early in pregnancy:They are Argentina, Cuba, Uruguay and Guyana.
On the flip side, some nations forbid abortion for any reason. In El Salvador, women accused of aborting a fetus can be prosecuted on assault or homicide charges, the Post said, exposing them to the potential for decades of incarceration.
As the Post reported, the vote comes as a strong and influential women’s movement is transforming Mexico, where female politicians now make up half of the nation's Congress.
There has been growing concern about the potential for physical peril raised by women seeking illegal abortions in the country.
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