Mexican Supreme Court Expands Access to Abortion in Federal Health Facilities

The Mexican Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling that widens access to abortion by decriminalizing the procedure in federal health facilities. This decision is a significant step towards ensuring that more than 70 percent of women in Mexico, including those who utilize the federal health system, will have legal access to abortion. The ruling has been deemed a “historic milestone” by the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (GIRE), the nonprofit organization that brought the case to the Supreme Court.

Individuals covered by Mexico’s national health system, such as federal employees, salaried workers who pay social security, and individuals living in poverty, will now have access to legal abortion services. The ruling showcases a growing acceptance of abortion in Latin America, even as it remains restricted in the United States.

This decision builds upon a previous Supreme Court ruling in 2021, which overturned a ban on abortion in the state of Coahuila. The 2021 ruling, often referred to as Mexico’s equivalent of “Roe v. Wade,” set a precedent for the entire country. However, for the ruling’s impact to be widespread, individual states had to change their laws criminalizing abortion, a process that required time and legal challenges.

Last week, Aguascalientes became the 12th state in Mexico to decriminalize abortion. With Wednesday’s unanimous Supreme Court decision, federal hospitals and clinics will now be required to provide abortion services. This includes the thousands of facilities under the management of Mexico’s Social Security Institute (IMSS), which operates the largest public health network in Latin America.

While women’s rights groups have applauded the decision, there has been criticism from anti-abortion organizations. Nonetheless, the ruling signifies a significant step forward for Mexico, the world’s second-largest Catholic country. Attitudes towards abortion have been gradually shifting in Mexico and across Latin America, with countries like Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia decriminalizing the procedure, and Chile easing restrictions. However, some countries like El Salvador and Honduras continue to enforce strict bans on abortion.

Mexico’s expanded access to abortion is also noteworthy because it has become a source of abortion pills discreetly shipped over the border to US citizens seeking to terminate their pregnancies. The US Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn “Roe v. Wade” has led to numerous states in the US outlawing or heavily restricting abortions, prompting individuals to seek alternatives like obtaining abortion pills from Mexico.