Pro-choice activists in Mexico City in February 2020Image copyright
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Abortion is only legal in two states out of 32

Mexico’s Supreme Court is due to rule on a landmark case that could impact abortion rights across the country.

The case revolves around an injunction granted in the eastern state of Veracruz, which would effectively decriminalise termination in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The ruling could set a precedent for similar injunctions in other states.

Mexico has strict laws on abortion – it is legal in just two of the country’s 32 states.

In an article last week, reproductive rights organisation GIRE said the ruling could be a “historic opportunity” for pro-choice campaigners.

What is this case about?

Last year, a judge in Xalapa, Veracruz, approved an injunction ordering the state’s Congress to remove articles 149, 150 and 154 of the local Penal Code.

The case has now gone to Mexico’s Supreme Court, which will decide whether to uphold that judge’s decision.

Removing these articles would decriminalise abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, allow terminations for health reasons, and get rid of the time limit on abortions in the case of rape.

The change was first recommended in a wide-ranging report on women’s rights, published by the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women (Conavim) and the National Institute for Women (InMujeres) in 2016.

The state government accepted the proposals and conclusions of the report in March 2017 – but has still not reformed the law.

How could this affect the rest of Mexico?

Although this decision only affects Veracruz for now, campaigners say it could have repercussions for the rest of the country too.

In its article last week, GIRE said that if the injunction is upheld, Veracruz state congress should “modify its abortion legislation, thereby opening the doors and setting a precedent for other states to modify their local penal codes in the same terms”.

Currently, abortion is only legal in two Mexican states – Oaxaca and Mexico City.

While other states allow abortion after rape, there have been high-profile cases of women and girls in this situation being denied terminations.

In 2016, a 13-year-old girl in Sonora state was denied an abortion by health officials after a judge ruled that she wasn’t raped, but was the victim of the lesser crime of “sexual coercion”.

What is the government’s stance?

The governing left-wing Morena party controls most of Mexico’s state legislatures, but has been divided on the issue of abortion.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also been accused of inaction on women’s rights, including reproductive rights and gender-based violence.

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been accused of inaction

Shortly after a historic protest in March, in which thousands of Mexican women took part in a Day Without Women strike to call attention to these issues, President López Obrador accused “conservatives” of “putting on the mask of feminism and saying, ‘we’re going to get rid of the government'”.

States were first given the right to set their own health policies, including abortion laws, after a 2008 Supreme Court ruling upholding Mexico City’s abortion legislation.

In the years that followed, more than half of Mexico’s states enacted laws that banned abortion in either all or most circumstances.

This included Veracruz, which enacted a constitutional amendment in 2016 that said life begins at conception.

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