MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that it is unconstitutional to punish abortion and unanimously overturned several provisions in a law from Coahuila – a state on the border with Texas – that had made abortion a criminal act.
The decision will immediately affect only the northern border state, but it sets a historical precedent and “mandatory criteria for all the country’s judges”, forcing them to act in the same way in similar cases, said Judge Arturo Zaldívar. “From now on, you will not be able, without violating the court’s criteria and the Constitution, to charge any woman who has an abortion in the circumstances that this court has found valid.”
The decision comes a week after a law in Texas came into force that bans abortion when doctors can detect cardiac activity in the fetus. It allows any private citizen to sue Texas abortion providers who violate the law, as well as anyone who “helps or supports” a woman who gets the procedure.
Only four Mexican states – Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Hidalgo – now allow abortion in most circumstances. The other 28 states punish abortion with some exceptions.
Mexico is a strong Roman Catholic country. The church was a powerful institution through colonial times and after Mexico’s independence, but a reform movement in the mid-19th century sharply limited the church’s role in daily life. Anticlerical efforts at times led to bloodshed, especially during the Cristero uprising of 1926 to 1929.
In an earlier ruling, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of women who had been imprisoned or had violated their rights to abortions. But Rebecca Ramos, director of the non-state reproductive rights group GIRE, said the latest case was the first time judges had debated the fundamental question of whether abortion should be considered a crime or not.
The decision may open up another possibility for Texas women seeking legal abortions. For years, some women in southern Texas have crossed the border to go to Mexican pharmacies to buy misoprostol, a pill that makes up half of the combination of two drugs prescribed for medical abortions.
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