Culturally conservative Mexico made international news last month when its Supreme Court decriminalized abortion. Four Mexican states had already legalized abortion, but the Supreme Court’s decision marks a major shift for a country with one of the largest Catholic populations in the world.
Mexico has a fairly conservative and religious culture. Yet, the Mexican Supreme Court dictated from the top down a decision that likely wouldn’t have passed if put to the Mexican people for a vote. A strong majority (60 percent) of Mexicans oppose abortion.
On September 7, the Mexican Supreme Court unanimously declared some articles of the state of Coahuila’s Penal Code, which penalized those who had or assisted in an abortion, as unconstitutional. Two days later, the same judges invalidated an article of the Sinaloa state constitution, which established: “[t]he State protects the right to life from the moment an individual is conceived.”
But the assault on life in the womb did not stop there. On September 13, the Mexican Supreme Court began to hear arguments concerning a law that seeks to restrict medical professionals’ conscientious objections to participating in abortions. A final ruling has yet to be made.
This attack on conscience protections is devastating for people of faith, those who believe life begins at conception, and for medical workers whose professional opinions make them reluctant to participate in abortions. In the few Mexican states where abortion is legal, many medical professionals have refused to participate in carrying out abortions. Conscience protections are essential to protecting their freedom to live in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.
The Mexican Supreme Court’s decriminalization ruling implies that there are Mexican women in prison for having abortions. But that’s not the case. According to the National Penitentiary Registry of Mexico, no woman is currently in jail for having an abortion. There are five female abortionists currently serving sentences for carrying out illegal abortions, but even these cases were only prosecuted because they resulted in the death of the mother.
Notably, the chief justice of the Mexican Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar, said, “From now on, a new path of freedom, clarity, dignity, and respect for all pregnant persons, but above all for women, begins.” By referring to “pregnant persons” as opposed to pregnant women, Zaldívar is adopting a dangerous gender ideology that denies the scientific reality of the biological distinctions between the sexes.
Pro-abortion activists hope Mexico’s Supreme Court rulings will put pressure on other countries to take steps in the same direction. Mexico’s decriminalization decision comes right after Argentina’s legalization of abortion and Ecuador’s decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape. Pressure from international organizations is also a factor in abortion’s increasing momentum in Latin America. In Mexico alone, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has invested more than $18 million in abortion advocacy between 2008 and 2016.
In a New York Times op-ed, Melissa Ayala wrote about the Mexican Supreme Court’s decriminalization decision, saying, “The justices said what has long been intuitive to feminist activists: that someone who is not yet born does not have the same protection as someone who already is alive.” This is a disturbing and revealing sentence—one that gets at the heart of the pro-abortion argument. It’s the dangerous assumption that a child in the womb is not already alive and that a woman’s comfort and convenience is worth more than the unborn child’s fundamental right to life.
Sadly, the Mexican legal system is moving towards embracing a culture of death. Yet, there is still reason for hope for the pro-life movement in Mexico. On October 3, thousands of women rallied across Mexico to protest the Supreme Court decision. The pro-life majority should not let radical Supreme Court justices decide the fate of the unborn. Now is the time for pro-lifers in Mexico and across Latin America to make their voices heard.
Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. Cristina Cevallos is majoring in law at the University of Piura in Lima, Peru.