Sep 9, 2021 - World

Mexico's Roe v. Wade

Pro-choice protesters in Mexcio

Pro-choice protests in Guadalajara, Mexico, with signs saying, “Maternity will be wanted or it won’t be” and “Take your rosaries off my ovaries,” September 2020. Photo: Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that abortion cannot be considered a crime, in a decision called “historic” for the heavily Catholic country and reached while its northern neighbor, Texas, is severely restricting those procedures.

Why it matters: At least 850 women have been criminally charged and over 200 of them imprisoned across Mexico in the past two decades because of state laws that impose fines or jail time for abortions and even for miscarriages, according to NGOs.

  • Between 750,000 and 1 million women in Mexico each year terminate their pregnancies; most in clandestine and unsafe conditions since abortion is illegal in most states.
  • Mexico City has had legal abortion since 2007, and support has been slowly growing in the rest of the country: in 2019, Oaxaca decriminalized it, followed by two more states, Hidalgo and Veracruz, just this summer.

How it works: The Supreme Court decision stemmed from a case in Coahuila and only applies to that state’s criminal code.

  • But the precedent means other states that still criminalize procedures to end a pregnancy will have to reform local laws or risk lower courts striking down similar statutes.
  • “Starting now no one will be able to criminally charge a woman who aborts without, in so doing, violating the court’s authority and the Constitution,” said chief justice Arturo Zaldívar.

Between the lines: Since 2019, Mexico’s upper court has taken a slew of progressive decisions. They include:

  • Stating that prohibiting recreational use of marijuana is unconstitutional, effectively allowing Mexicans to cultivate cannabis for personal use without sanction.
  • Ensuring that people who go through gender transition can get new birth certificates to reflect their identity regardless of differing state laws.

Get more news that matters about Latinos in the hemisphere, delivered right to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sign up for the Axios Latino newsletter.

Go deeper