Mexico decriminalises abortion nationwide in historic Supreme Court ruling

Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalised abortion in a historic decision welcomed by women’s rights groups across the country.

The ruling would mean access to abortions for millions of Mexican women. The Supreme Court court said federal criminal penalties for abortions were unconstitutional.

The sweeping decision was an extension of a growing trend in Latin American countries of loosening restrictions on abortion in what has been referred to as a “green wave”.

Mexico’s Supreme Court said that “the legal system that criminalised abortion” in Mexico was unconstitutional because it “violates the human rights of women and people with the ability to gestate”.

“In cases of rape, no girl can be forced to become a mother – neither by the state nor by her parents nor her guardians,” said Arturo Zaldívar, the head of the Supreme Court.

“Here, the violation of her rights is more serious, not only because of her status as a victim, but also because of her age, which makes it necessary to analyse the issue from the perspective of the best interests of minors.”

The ruling was a victory for the GIRE, a reproductive rights organisation headquartered in Mexico City. They initiated the landmark case against the Mexican state as a pivotal component of their years-long advocacy campaign for reform.

“No woman or pregnant person, nor any health worker, will be able to be punished for abortion,” GIRE (the Information Group for Chosen Reproduction) said.

While the federal ban has been lifted, a patchwork of state-level restrictions on abortion still exists in approximately 20 Mexican states.

The landmark decision comes two years after a court in Mexico ruled in favour of a challenge against criminalising abortion in the northern state of Coahuila. It set off a slow state-by-state process of decriminalising it.

The decision was celebrated by several, including women rights activists who posted green heart images in reference to the feminist movement but angered more conservative groups in Latin America’s second-largest Catholic nation.

“Today is a day of victory and justice for Mexican women!” Mexico’s National Institute for Women wrote in a message on the social media platform X. The government organisation called the decision a “big step” toward gender equality.

But Irma Barrientos, an opponent of the ruling party and director of the Civil Association for the Rights of the Conceived, said they will continue the fight against expanded abortion access.

“We’re not going to stop,” Ms Barrientos said. “Let’s remember what happened in the United States. After 40 years, the Supreme Court reversed its abortion decision, and we’re not going to stop until Mexico guarantees the right to life from the moment of conception.”