Mexico Decriminalizes Abortion
A La Jornada Editorial
In a historic and unanimous vote, [Mexico’s] Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) declared unconstitutional Article 196 of the Coahuila Penal Code, which punishes with imprisonment for one to three years women who abort voluntarily and those who assist them. As presiding minister Arturo Zaldívar reported, this decision established a mandatory criterion for all the country’s judges, so that similar cases pending resolution in any court in the country, must rule in the same sense.
In simple terms the foregoing means that: “from now on it will not be possible, without violating the criteria of the Court and the Constitution, to prosecute any woman who aborts” in the cases considered valid by the constitutional court. The decriminalization of the right of women to decide about their bodies is nothing less than a civilizing conquest that puts Mexico in the vanguard of the issue by making it the first nation in Latin America where a constitutional court rules on the human right of the woman to determine if she wants to be a mother or not.
Members of the Supreme Court have the merit of putting an end to a deplorable institutional inertia that maintained a fundamental right in limbo, left to the arbitrariness of local congresses and rulers. But, the victory belongs to all the women who for decades have fought in defense of their dignity, their sovereignty and their rights until achieving legal recognition of the inalienable power they have over their own bodies.
Now that abortion is decriminalized, the task of regulating it lies ahead. Now it’s up to the Legislative Power to approve regulations that establish terms and procedures, as well as arrange for the creation of infrastructure and assign the resources necessary to guarantee access to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy for women who require it. In that regard, it’s clear that it’s not enough to provide facilities and personnel, but that it must be legislated broadly and with a careful adherence to the perspective of gender, so that the services provided are medically, ethically and psychologically adequate. It cannot be forgotten that for many women the termination of a pregnancy is a difficult decision, still charged with guilt and social stigmatization, and therefore the health personnel must be prepared to accompany them with total respect for their autonomy and dignity.
Faced with such a challenge, federal legislators would do well to observe the example of Mexico City, where, far from leaving the exercise of this right to the discretion of the market, mechanisms were created to ensure the gratuity, security and decorum of the services public institutions provide.
In conclusion, this transcendental advance on the road to dismantling the regime of oppression that women have suffered must be greeted in the most effusive terms, but without losing sight of how much remains to be achieved, both a life free of gender-based violence, and substantive equality at all levels of public and private activity.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee