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Mexico’s Supreme Court Orders the Decriminalization of Abortion and Launches a Win for the World

Analysis Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, President and CEO

In 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that abortion is a constitutional right. Since then, 12 of Mexico’s 32 states have followed suit and decriminalized abortion. On Wednesday the Supreme Court doubled down on that order by again unanimously ruling that state laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional and violated women’s rights. This new ruling orders that abortion be removed from all state constitution criminal codes and requires that all federal health facilities provide an abortion to anyone seeking it.

The ruling out of Mexico gives me hope. It is the result of the deep and undeterred work of a community of feminists, legal scholars, researchers, policymakers and advocates who know that with no rights, there is no progress. This week’s win is not only a win for Mexico and Latin America but is also a win for the world and, more importantly, an example and precedent to follow.

Mexico has been on an accelerating journey that is setting the global pace to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for their people. As advocates continue to fight for a range of issues — including seeking justice and accountability for femicides and sexual violence as well as demanding respectful, compassionate and equitable sexual and reproductive health care for Indigenous women and youth and people in rural areas — their one message to rights deniers and disrupters is clear: make way.

Photo by Eduardo – stock.adobe.com

Mexico was the first country in Latin America to adopt a feminist foreign policy, which was recognized by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) as one of the three best in the world, and hosted the 2022 Gender Equality Forum. The Mexican government established clear and bold national targets as part of its sexual and reproductive health policies which includes zero adolescent pregnancies, zero unmet need for contraceptives, zero maternal deaths and more. This week we also learned that the people of Mexico are guaranteed their first female president as the two contenders in the country’s upcoming presidential election are women.

These are clear and intentional commitments that center the health and well-being of people. None of this comes without a united community of advocates and accountability-holders working together and advancing legal action, policy changes, health systems improvements and community-based activism to demand what is fundamental: safe, legal and accessible abortion care.

The Green Wave Movement, legal organizations like Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE) that advanced the Coahuila state abortion case upon which this week’s ruling is based, civil society organizations — including long-standing PAI partners in Mexico such as Observatorio de Mortalidad Materna (OMM) and Elige Red that ensure that policy and legal commitments are met — and Mexico’s youth are unwavering. Together they are standing up for equality, equity, justice and rights for a better future for all.

PAI’s esteemed Board Member Dr. Karla Berdichevsky Feldman, who was the most recent head of reproductive health and gender equality for the government of Mexico and among the most essential advocates and architects of Mexico’s sexual and reproductive health and rights policies, participated in PAI’s Catalyst Session just a few days before Roe v. Wade was overturned in the United States. During the conversation, she called on the importance of centering our work around scientific evidence, grounding national and global policies in human rights and furthering national and global policies that prevent regressions and anti-rights groups from being emboldened.

Dr. Berdichevsky reminded us that with such unfortunate outcomes like the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we also are empowered to stay united, strong and elevate our cause globally so as to not lose rights that have been secured while also pushing for a human rights and feminist agenda. This week, with the court’s decision in my beloved Mexico, a country in which I am so proud to have been raised, this exact progress that Dr. Berdichevsky called on us to keep pushing for was advanced.

On the evening of September 15, the observance of Mexico’s battle for independence kicks off with El Grito de Independencia (The Cry of Independence). It ends with three cries of “Viva México! Viva México! Viva México!” which translates to “long live Mexico.” This year will have special meaning because the strength, vitality and resilience of Mexico are possible when the rights, health and prosperity of the Mexican people are secured. Unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths in Mexico and Wednesday’s ruling saves lives, respects the autonomy and independence of people and gives a new meaning to the millions of advocates who will proudly chant the cry this year.

Congratulations to all the champions, donors and supporters who made this win possible. Thank you for your courage and thank you for the fight. En hora buena y sigamos!

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