Mexico is the latest Latin American country to decriminalise abortion

The Supreme Court’s decision to legalise the procedure across all 32 states follows a growing trend throughout the region, which is renowned for its deeply conservative values.

Thred Media
3 min readSep 11, 2023

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On Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ordered that abortion be removed from the federal penal code across all 32 states, in a historic decision welcomed by women’s rights groups throughout the country.

The ruling will mean access to the procedure for millions, an extension of a growing trend in Latin America known as the ‘green wave.’

In recent years, this movement — which has seen feminist campaigners region-wide challenge societies plagued by hostile attitudes towards women’s bodies — has brought about a string of legal victories for reproductive rights.

Following in the footsteps of Colombia, Uruguay, and Argentina, Mexico’s Supreme Court said the denial of the possibility of terminating a pregnancy ‘violated the human rights of women and people with the capacity to gestate’ and announced that the federal public health service and all federal health institutions will now be required to offer abortion to anyone who requests it.

It could also result in the exoneration of people who have been convicted of abortion-related crimes in the past, which sets a precedent for adaptation across a historically conservative region, long-permeated with stringent abortion laws that, in some cases, have led to incarceration for those violating them.

‘No woman or pregnant person, nor any health worker, will be able to be punished for abortion,’ said Rebeca Ramos, executive director of GIRE, which filed an injunction last year against the Mexican regulation from 1931 criminalising the procedure.

‘This makes possible what we had not achieved in many years, which is that at least in certain institutions all across the country legal and safe abortion services can be provided.’

The reforms in Mexico and other Latin American countries contrast with the situation in the United States, where a Supreme Court ruling last year overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision guaranteeing the right to abortion nationwide.

According to the BBC, the move is likely to anger Mexico’s more conservative politicians and the Catholic Church, in what is Latin America’s second largest Catholic nation.

However, the Church’s influence has been declining over the last decade and the country’s government considers itself staunchly secular.

Elsewhere, some nations allow abortions in circumstances such as rape or health risks, while outright bans apply in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

The tireless work of activists in Mexico is arguably to thank for influencing this symbolic step forward for women’s rights, especially as other countries begin to look into introducing similar changes.

‘Today is a day of victory and justice for Mexican women!’ Mexico’s National Institute for Women wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The government organisation called the decision a ‘big step’ toward gender equality.

And Senator Olga Sanchez Cordero, a former Supreme Court justice, applauded the ruling, saying that it represented an advance toward ‘a more just society in which the rights of all are respected.’

Originally written by Sofia Phillips for Thred.

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