Mexico’s Top Court Decriminalizes Abortion in Sweeping Case


MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously declared that criminalizing early-term abortion is unconstitutional, a historic decision that loosens limits on the procedure in a region where few countries offer access without restriction. 

The court was considering a provision in the state of Coahuila’s criminal code that punished women for all abortions before 12 weeks, threatening them with one to three years in prison, no matter the reason.

“No one gets pregnant, exercising their autonomy, so they can later get an abortion,” said Justice Margarita Rios Farjat. “In the name of life, women are penalized, for being ignorant, or promiscuous or for being ‘bad’ and not carrying the pregnancy to term in order to give the baby up for adoption.” 

Mexico, a largely Catholic and conservative country of about 130 million people, is following Argentina, where elective abortion was declared legal late last year. 

Mexico’s decision came days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a law in neighboring Texas that bans abortions after six weeks and deputizes citizens to sue people who perform or aid in the procedure. 

Mexico City and Oaxaca state are the only places where early-term abortion is completely decriminalized. Hidalgo and Veracruz states have also recently passed legislation but with certain restrictions. 

The precedent set Tuesday will prevent courts all around the country from prosecuting women accused of voluntarily ending a pregnancy before three months of gestation. 

“Today is a historic day for the rights of women and of pregnant people in Mexico,” said Arturo Zaldivar, president of the Supreme Court.

Amnesty International said in a tweet that “this important advance for human rights is also an achievement of different feminist movements, women and pregnant people.” 

Across the region, only Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay allow voluntarily ending a pregnancy. In Chile, a court in 2017 decriminalized abortion under conditions of inviability, risk of loss of life and pregnancies resulting from rape. The latter two are also conditions under which abortions are allowed in Brazil, Bolivia and Panama.

The ruling adds to a list of striking Supreme Court decisions in recent years. In June, the justices lifted a ban against the recreational use of marijuana. In 2015, the court published an opinion ruling that it was unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage.