Recent Wins Toward Abortion Liberalization in Mexico
I am writing you to fill you in on some exciting advances regarding the liberalization of abortion law in Mexico, as the legal grounds for abortion have been increased in three Mexican states: Guerrero, Michoacan and Tlaxcala. The first two occurred at the end of last year while the third is quite recent.
In Guerrero, in what appears to be a direct result of GIRE's collective stay against the governor and local legislature, the latter passed a new penal code that includes legal abortion in cases of serious risk to a woman’s health (and therefore, risk to a woman’s life is implicit as well) in November 2014.
In Michoacan, the legislature passed a new penal code in December 2014 that liberalized abortion law by including legal abortion grounds for fetal malformations, nonconsensual artificial insemination and financial hardship (only the second Mexican state to include this indication).
Lastly, within the context of an imminent Supreme Court debate on the constitutionality of removing legal indications for abortion in Tlaxcala, the state’s legislature reformed its penal code to correct earlier mistakes by including legal abortion for fetal malformations just this week. Below, we include further details on this complicated case.
On May 31, 2013, a revised Tlaxcala penal code entered into effect that removed legal abortion in cases of risk to a woman’s health but, at the same time, added the grounds for abortion due to fetal malformations. It also established that women who had legal abortions under these indications were no longer considered criminals. Based on authorities’ obligations to promote, respect, protect and fulfill human rights in accordance with the principle of progressivity, GIRE encouraged the president of the Tlaxcala Human Rights Commission to present an unconstitutionality claim against the removal of the health indication.
Prior to the Supreme Court discussion on this unconstitutionality claim, the Tlaxcala legislature reformed its penal code a second time. The reform, published on December 5, 2013, included legal abortion after artificial insemination without consent and reinstated the health indication. However, this time, the legislature removed the fetal malformations indication and removed the clause that women who undergo abortions under the limited indications are no longer criminals. So, once again,GIRE encouraged the human rights ombudsman to present yet another unconstitutionality claim before the Supreme Court.
On April 24, 2015, days before the imminent discussion in the Supreme Court on the second unconstitutionality claim (and the 8th anniversary of legal abortion during the first trimester in Mexico City), the Tlaxcala legislature approved a third reform to its penal code that reinstates the fetal malformation indication and establishes that women who undergo abortions under this and other legal indications are no longer considered criminals.
In summary, at the end of this legal quagmire, not only did Tlaxcala maintain all legal grounds for abortion, it also added the fetal malformations indication and no longer considers women who undergo abortion criminals.
Two of these recent liberalizations are directly related to GIRE’s legal strategies and we are proud of these accomplishments, taking us three steps closer to the harmonization of legal grounds for abortion across Mexican states. While the on-going and ever-challenging implementation of these indications for women’s access to safe and legal abortion still lies ahead, please join us in celebrating these legal victories.