By Sandra G. Leon
Mexico’s highest court has struck down as unconstitutional two provisions of state law that set criminal penalties for women who sought abortions, as well as anyone who causes a woman to have the procedure without her consent.
The court’s unanimous decision undoes a Coahuila state law that imposed prison sentences of up to three years for women who underwent a procedure to terminate a pregnancy, as well as health care providers who performed such a procedure without the woman’s consent.
The Court also struck down another provision of that state’s laws that restricted abortions in cases involving rape, insemination, or artificial implantation to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“Today is a historic day for the rights of all Mexican woman,” Chief Justice Arturo Zaldivar said after the ruling.
The ruling was the first time in Mexico’s history that the highest court has ruled to protect the reproductive rights of women without criminal penalties.
“I’m against stigmatizing those who make this decision [to undergo an abortion] which I believe is difficult to begin with, due to moral and social burdens,” said Supreme Court Justice Ana Margarita Ríos Farjat. “It shouldn’t be burdened as well by the law. Nobody gets voluntarily pregnant thinking about getting an abortion later.”
The Mexican Supreme Court is comprised of eight men and three women.
Privacy and women’s rights groups hailed the decision as similar to the US Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade in 1973 that protected reproductive rights for American women.
But Mexico’s decision comes at a time when reproductive rights are being challenged and chipped away in the US.
Just last week, the US Supreme Court let stand a recent Texas state law that allows anyone to sue a woman, health care provider, or even someone who drives a woman to a facility for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy after the first six weeks. Several others states are now looking at proposing similar laws as Texas.