Mexico-Decriminalisation of abortion in the Supreme Court: Important Victory in an ongoing battle

On Tuesday, September 7, in the midst of a series of demonstrations by the Mexican ultra-right — a staunch enemy of women’s rights — the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation took a historic step with the ruling that declared the criminalization of abortion unconstitutional under the state of Coahuila’s penal code. What significance does this have in the context of the struggle for the respect of women’s autonomy over their own bodies?

As a direct consequence of feminist mobilizations in recent years, the decriminalization of abortion has been placed on top of the agenda. Since 2019, the organization of women and the pressure from below has achieved the decriminalization of abortion in the legislatures of Oaxaca, Hidalgo and Veracruz, thereby joining Mexico City, where it has been decriminalized since 2007. Faced with the severe restrictions imposed by the penal codes of the rest of the states, the legislatures passed changes to protect the rights of women and pregnant people.

For two days the plenary session of the Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Arturo Zaldívar, discussed various appeals of unconstitutionality, specifically regarding Articles 196, 198 and 199 of the Criminal Code of Coahuila. These articles establish the criminalization of persons who voluntarily perform abortions, as well as those who assist them, whether or not they are healthcare workers. As a sign of the strength of the feminist movement, the ministers unanimously declared unconstitutional the absolute criminalization of abortion, which is the case in the penal codes of most of the country.

The behavior, the arguments and the decisions made by the justices come as a result of the women’s movement’s struggle for reproductive rights. Without the pressure exerted by the feminist movement in the streets, the change in the criteria, sensitivity and responsibility assumed by the courts in this discussion cannot be understood. The September 7 ruling is a clear demonstration of the importance of the struggle for free, safe and legal abortion in this country. It is also a decision that historically confronts the right wing, showing the power of organization and mobilization, especially of the working class, as a means to extend and win rights.

Despite the significance of this step and its importance for the feminist struggle, it is clear that there is still a long way to go. The ruling does not oblige the legislatures of the remaining states to decriminalize abortion; much less is it a national decriminalization. With the declaration of unconstitutionality, a precedent is set that judges throughout the country will have to observe when carrying out their work: the violation of human rights involved in the criminalization of abortion is now established. This represents a useful recourse for women and pregnant people, but it still does not facilitate full access to this right, especially for those who are in a situation of economic, social and legal vulnerability.

As part of our struggle for the liberation of the working class, it is clear that only socialism ensures the full conquest of reproductive rights such as abortion. We demand the total and immediate decriminalization of the voluntary termination of pregnancy in all of Mexico! Given that advances have taken a long time, without taking into account the urgency of the situation of women, we need to redouble our efforts for the construction of a platform of women and pregnant people that guides their struggle for individual autonomy within the struggle for collective emancipation. From a socialist feminist perspective, we salute and support the advances in the struggle for safe, free and legal abortion, as it is a demand that benefits the realization of a society of freedoms and rights for all.