As US States Restrict Abortion Access, Mexican States Expand It

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A woman holds up a banner that reads “My body, I decide” during a rally to celebrate the decision of the Mexican Supreme Court that found the total criminalization of abortion to be unconstitutional, in Saltillo, Mexico September 7, 2021.

©  2021 REUTERS/Daniel Becerril.

The southern Mexican state of Guerrero recently became Mexico’s eighth state to decriminalize abortion on request. It follows a wave of states doing so, which started with Mexico City in 2007; Oaxaca in 2019; Hidalgo, Veracruz, Coahuila, and Colima in 2021; and Sinaloa in March of 2022.

This legislative success comes after Mexico’s 2021 Supreme Court ruling that declared unconstitutional the total criminalization of abortion in the state of Coahuila. For the first time, the country’s highest court unequivocally recognized that criminalization of abortion violates the human rights of pregnant people, such as the right to life, to health, and to be free from violence.   

Guerrero’s expansion of abortion rights comes while access is under threat in the United States, with the Supreme Court possibly moving to reverse Roe v. Wade, and the US state of Oklahoma passing a law to ban nearly all abortions.  

In most of the Mexican states that decriminalized abortion, the procedure was already legal in case of rape, “fetal malformations” for health reasons, or to save the woman’s life. However, women often struggle to access legal abortion for free at public hospitals because doctors are not aware of the law or they find excuses to delay the procedure.

While the first seven Mexican states to decriminalize the procedure set the term for accessing abortion services at 12 or 13 weeks, Guerrero went a step further by decriminalizing it for women altogether. Now, only medical personnel or those who assist in an abortion after the twelfth week can be prosecuted, except when the procedure is needed to save the life or health of the pregnant person, and in cases of sexual violence or “serious fetal malformations.” 

Guerrero has been known for grave human rights violations. Infamously, in 2014, 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero were disappeared. In 2002, two Me’phaa indigenous women, Inés and Valentina, were raped and tortured by military members, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Mexico in violation of the American Convention of Human Rights for this case.  

It’s a good change for Guerrero to make the news for a positive reason – for guaranteeing the human rights of pregnant people by fully recognizing their right to terminate a pregnancy. 

It’s a state that understands that decriminalization of abortion is a matter of human rights.

*This dispatch is part of a series of articles looking at abortion rights around the world. You can find the series here.  

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