Why is Decriminalizing Abortion Important and What Mexico has done for it!
In a ruling on September 7th, Mexico’s Supreme Court legalized abortion for women all over the country. Here’s to a major victory for the women’s rights movement.
The human rights law states that “decisions about your body are yours alone.” It is known as bodily autonomy. But in many countries, women are deprived of this right when they are prevented from having abortions. Access to safe abortions is a human right, and by criminalizing it, the “rule makers” of the society prove time and time again that women are not in charge of their bodies. This brings in the need to decriminalize abortions, a step countries like Mexico are finally making a move towards.
(Es mi cuerpo, yo decido: My body, I decide)
A report from Amnesty International stated that criminalizing abortions doesn’t stop them, it just makes abortions less safe. Women have to seek out unsafe methods to end the pregnancy, such as having it done by people with insufficient training and skills in a setting with inadequate medical standards. An estimate of 25 million unsafe abortions happens every year.
“In contrast to a legal abortion that is carried out by a trained medical provider, unsafe abortions can have fatal consequences. So much so that unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide and lead to an additional five million largely preventable disabilities,” according to the WHO.
However, things seem to take a positive turn now in the supreme court of Mexico. The bench ruled that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional. “Today is a historic day for the rights of all Mexican women,” Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar said after the judges’ votes were cast. “It is a watershed in the history of the rights of all women, especially the most vulnerable,” as reported by the New York Times.
The decision was met with cheer by the women but it also invited dismay from the conservative catholic church. Mexico is the second-largest Roman Catholic country after Brazil. The catholic church strongly opposes abortion procedures. Mexico has set an incredible example for the rest of the world, especially in light of the current debate over abortion laws.
Hundreds of poor Mexican women have been prosecuted for having an abortion, and at least a dozen remain jailed to date. After the decision, Coahuila’s state government issued a statement that any woman serving in the prison for the same should be released immediately.
“This Supreme Court decision has legal ripple effects beyond the Mexican state of Coahuila and applies across Mexico,” Paula Avila-Guillen, executive director of the Women’s Equality Center, said in a statement following the decision.
“As of this moment, any Mexican state that criminalizes abortion is in direct defiance of the Federal Constitution. As of this decision, all Mexican states where abortion is still criminalized are obligated to modify their legal frameworks to comply with the standard set by the Court,” Avila-Guillen added, as reported by the NPR.
When Argentina legalized abortion, it inspired the women of Mexico to take a stand for the same with full force. They are fighting the battle to decriminalize abortion in the country for years now with green bandanas, a symbol of abortion rights activists. This was a victory for women throughout Latin America, where success in “one country often catalyzes the efforts in others.” Before this, only four states in Mexico allowed abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
While the neighbor is moving towards tougher abortion laws, Mexico’s decision came forward in the support of women’s health and human rights. Recently, the state of Texas ruled put a sweeping ban on abortion after six weeks, a time period during which most women don’t even know they are pregnant. Many women in the States took to the streets to protest against the Texas abortion law.
As the northern state of Coahuila shares borders with Texas, Mexico decriminalizing the abortion law could lead US women to travel to the country to terminate their pregnancies. They may benefit from the new Mexican law like the women natives.
Women have been compromising on their rights since time immemorial. Read this blog to know about the 7 worst customs that affect their rights. You can also check out our other blogs on the website.
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Image credits: REUTERS/Daniel Becerril