Activists in Mexico have praised the Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalize abortion, saying it would stop the legal prosecution of women who terminate their pregnancies and those reported to authorities after suffering miscarriages.
The decision, issued unanimously on Tuesday, declared criminal penalties for abortion in the northern state of Coahuila unconstitutional. The decision sets a precedent, according to lawyers involved in abortion cases, and will be applicable across the country.
The ruling came just days after the US Supreme Court refused to block a near-total abortion ban in Texas, and has sparked speculation that women in the US state may cross the border. border to seek layoffs.
On Wednesday, a governor of a Mexican state announced that he would release all women jailed for abortions.
The governor of Coahuila, Miguel Riquelme, said in a statement that “the resolution will have retroactive effects, and if there is any woman deprived of her liberty for the crime of abortion, she must be released immediately.”
A government spokeswoman was not sure how many women would be released, while a local activist said she was unaware of any women jailed for abortions in the state in the past 25 years.
But activists and lawyers say the ruling is likely to lead to a change in legal culture and fewer criminal investigations, as judges based their decision on human rights and women’s right to decide arguments rather than legal technicalities.
“The reality is that women are not tried for abortion. Women are tried for murder, ”said Karla Michelle Salas, a lawyer representing women accused of abortion-related crimes.
“What prosecutors do, especially in the more conservative states, is charge women with murder,” Salas said.
In one such case, Salas represented a woman from the state of Querétaro, Dafne McPherson, who suffered a miscarriage in the bathroom of the department store where she worked. McPherson was charged with abortion and subsequent murder. She was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but was released on appeal after three years.
Salas explained that many states reacted to the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico City in 2007 with constitutional amendments declaring that “life begins at conception,” and charged accordingly.
The Mexican Supreme Court is expected to rule shortly on the constitutional amendments at the state level.
An analysis in the magazine Nexos of GIRE, a reproductive rights organization, said that the court will debate a motion by Judge Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena, which proposes that “states cannot use the existence clauses (proclaiming) the protection of life from conception as a pretext to deny people all kinds of services related to sexual and reproductive health ”.
In the past two years, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Hidalgo followed Mexico City’s precedent and decriminalized abortion, but activists say elective abortions are still difficult to obtain in those states because medical workers refuse to have the procedure. is available.
“That is where we have the problems: it is in the law but they still do not provide public services because they put conscientious objection before everything else,” said Verónica Cruz, founder of Las Libres, a non-governmental group in the state of Guanajuato, which has worked for free women in prison for miscarriages and abortions.
The supreme court is scheduled to discuss the issue of conscientious objections on Thursday, according to the court’s press office.
“Abortion services have always existed, but they are selective,” Cruz said, explaining that women with money pay for clandestine abortions or travel to places where it is legal. Others buy pharmaceuticals like misoprostol, which is sold cheaply without a prescription in Mexico, and abort at home, often with the help of collectives that help women with the procedure.
Cruz said the women remain in jail for aborting, but noted that “the government itself does not know where these women are” due to the “disaster” of a public records system in Mexico.
Activists say women could move from Texas, where new laws restrict abortion to roughly the first six pregnancies, to neighboring Coahuila, as medical tourism is common. However, some saw irony in the situation.
“We used to go to Texas or Mexico City,” said Jackie Campbell, a women’s rights activist in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila. “Now we don’t have to leave to have this right.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism