Mexico‘s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that criminal penalties for abortion in the world’s second largest Catholic nation are unconstitutional.
The unanimous vote by the 11 members of the high court comes as Texas, just north of the US border, has taken steps to restrict access to the procedure after enacting the strictest anti-abortion law in the country last week.
‘This is a historic step for the rights of women,’ Mexican Supreme Court Justice Luis Maria Aguilar said.
Abortion remains illegal in much of Latin America, with only four countries allowing it under all circumstances, and the move in Mexico makes it the most populous country in a region dominated by Catholicism to allow it.
A priest along with a group of religious conservatives prayed outside the Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico City ahead of its landmark ruling on Tuesday decriminalizing abortion
Mexico, is home to the second largest population of Catholics, who are opposed to abortion on religious grounds
Mexican Supreme Court Justice Luis Maria Aguilar called the ruling a historic step for the rights of women’
With a Catholic population of roughly 100million according to the latest figures from the Pew Research Center, it trails only Brazil in the world with its roughly 140million Catholics.
The ruling follows moves in Mexico to decriminalize abortion at the state level, although most of the country still has tough laws in place against women terminating their pregnancy early.
Most recently on July 20, the Mexican state of Veracruz become the fourth in the country to clear away criminal penalties for elective abortion.
It followed votes in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Hidalgo to ease abortion restrictions in late June.
The ruling concerned a law in the state of Coahuila that sets prison sentences for up to three years for women who undergo an illegal abortion.
The decision comes amid a growing women’s movement in Mexico, where half of its congress is made up of female politicians. Pictured: Protesters calling for safe and legal abortions in Mexico City in February, 2020
The world’s 10 most populous Catholic nations
1. Brazil: 140million
2. Mexico: 100million
3. The Philippines: 85.5million
4. The United States: 81million
5. Italy: 50million
6. Democratic Republic of Congo: 55.8million
7. Colombia: 37.9million
8. Poland: 33million
9. Spain: 32.3million
10. France: 31.3million
Source: Pew Research Center
It comes as a women’s movement has been growing in the country, where half of its congress is made up of female politicians, the Washington Post reported.
But the decision did not come without controversy.
On Monday the National Action Party, one of the country’s largest conservative opposition parties, voiced its opposition to the arguments being put forth by the court.
‘We are in favor of the defense of life from conception to natural death, which is why we reject abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty and any scientific research that threatens human life, which must be protected by the State,’ the group said in a statement.
The ruling will create a set of criteria that states will follow to modify their abortion laws to remain constitutional, Diego Valades, a former Mexican supreme court judge told the Post.
It will also free all women serving prison sentences for abortion.
Meanwhile in Texas last Wednesday, the state enacted the strictest anti-abortion law in the nation, which bans abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy.
It was allowed to stand after a 5-4 ruling by the US Supreme Court ruled to uphold it.
The ban prohibits abortion at a point when many women do not even realize they are pregnant, but could still be blocked at some other stage.
Meanwhile, Texas last week enacted the strictest anti-abortion law in the US. It bans abortions in the state past the sixth week of pregnancy. Pictured: Demonstrators protested the law last Wednesday
The law would amount to a near-total ban on the procedure in Texas – the second-most-populous U.S. state – as 85% to 90% of abortions are obtained after six weeks of pregnancy, and would probably force many clinics to close, abortion rights groups said.
Texas’ ban has so far survived legal challenges partly because of an unusual feature that leaves enforcement up to individual citizens, who could collect cash bounties of at least $10,000 for bringing successful lawsuits against women who seek abortion after their sixth week of pregnancy or those who help them.
‘It unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,’ President Joe Biden, said in a statement directing federal agencies to act to protect the right to abortion enshrined in the high court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
‘Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women.’