On Tuesday, 7 September 2021, the Mexican Supreme Court voted to decriminalise abortion, annulling several provisions of a law enacted in Coahuila, a state in the country’s northern border. The law had punished women with up to three years in prison for abortion, even in cases of sexual assault. In previous decisions, the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of women who had been imprisoned for seeking an abortion or had their rights violated for abortions. This case, however, represented the first time that justices had debated the fundamental question of whether or not abortion should be considered legal.
SRT grantee Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (Information Group on Reproductive Choice, or GIRE) played a critical role in advocating for this outcome. GIRE was established in 1992 in Mexico with the goal of disseminating objective and scientific information on abortion. Their work has focused on countering the persistent stigma around abortion in Mexico, a heavily Roman Catholic country. In the case of the Coahuila ruling, justices did not specify how far into a pregnancy a woman may legally obtain an abortion, leaving it to be determined at the state level. GIRE is planning to push for abortion to be legal in Coahuila for 12 weeks after conception at a minimum.
Challenges lay ahead for the expansion of reproductive rights in Mexico. Currently, only four Mexican states —Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Hidalgo —allow abortion in most circumstances; the other 28 penalise abortion with some exceptions. Furthermore, many health and medical workers are often not trained in how to provide safe abortions and many doctors claim to be “conscientious objectors.” In order for abortion to become legal across Mexico, laws which outlaw abortion must be individually challenged in each state unless local legislatures vote to change them on their own. The 7 September ruling represents a historic precedent, opening the door for other states to reconsider their restrictive abortion laws. GIRE plans to continue its advocacy to realise the goal of universal, safe abortion in Mexico.
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