By Emily Barcklow, Projects Coordinator, and María Eugenia Romero, Executive Director, at Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia.
A little over a month ago, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of the constitutionality of the abortion law reform approved by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly on April 24, 2007.
This ruling not only ensures the continuation of safe and legal abortion care up to 12 weeks of gestation for residents of Mexico’s capital city, but it also sets the groundwork for replicating this landmark reform in other states.
The law that was passed last year in Mexico City decriminalized abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation and obligated the Mexico City government to implement comprehensive policies and actions that promote sexual and reproductive health and rights. Prior to this reform, abortion was only permitted in case of rape, congenital malformations, non-consensual artificial insemination and in case of risk to the women’s health. In addition, women were not penalized for accidental pregnancy loss.
In line with the conservative political agenda of Mexico’s federal
government, and in flagrant disregard for women’s reproductive rights,
the National Human Rights Commission and the National Attorney
General’s Office sent unconstitutionality claims to the Supreme Court
shortly after the reform was passed. These claims were the subject of
the debate in the recent ruling.
In spite of significant public campaigning on behalf of the
unconstitutionality claims by right-wing groups and the Catholic Church
hierarchy, the Mexican Supreme Court succeeded in focusing their
analysis and arguments on women’s rights guaranteed in the Mexican
Constitution and international treaties signed by Mexico. A key
conclusion by the majority opinion was that the right to life is a
relative versus fundamental right in which the rights of the woman must
also be taken into consideration. This decision sets a precedent, not
only for Mexico, but also for other Latin American countries.
Since May of 2007, more than 12,000 women have used the legal abortion services available
in public hospitals. These services were only possible thanks to the
rapid implementation of the law by the local Ministry of Health and the
technical assistance provided by local expert civil society
organizations, including Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics for the Right to Decide), Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (Information Group for Reproductive Choice), Ipas Mexico and The Population Council, who together with Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia (Gender Equity: Citizenship, Work and Family) form the Alliance for the Right to Decide in Mexico.
Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia, a PAI partner in Mexico since 2002, has coordinated the Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Mexico
(ddeser) since 2003 and played an integral part in the social
mobilizations in support of the law prior to its passage, and in its
dissemination over the last year. This public outreach is central to
informing the population of the law and generating a favorable public
opinion, measured by an Ipsos-Bimsa survey carried out in April of this
year which showed that 82 percent of the Mexico City population knew of
the law and 63 percent were in support of it. Members of the central
staff and the ddeser leaders where thrilled to be present for the final
decision by the court.