Mexico’s Supreme Court has decriminalised abortion nationwide.
The decision comes almost two years after the court unanimously ruled that penalising abortion is unconstitutional, in what was hailed a “watershed moment” for all women.
That ruling in September 2021 only covered the northern state of Coahuila, where officials declared any woman imprisoned for terminating a pregnancy should be released “immediately”.
From now, it will apply across the predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Campaigners at the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (GIRE) brought a case challenging the federal penal code.
The Supreme Court sided with GIRE, declaring the section of national law that made abortion illegal could no longer take effect.
GIRE said in a statement: “No woman or pregnant person, nor any health worker, will be able to be punished for abortion.”
Deputy director Isabel Fulda said: “We wouldn’t have this ruling if we didn’t have the Coahuila one two years ago.
“I would say that this one today has more reach, definitely in terms of access to abortion,” she added.
In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the court said it found the abortion section of the federal penal code unconstitutional and that it violated the rights of people who can have children.
Since the 2021 ruling, just 12 of Mexico’s 32 states have taken steps to decriminalise abortion.
The central state of Aguascalientes was the most recent to do so last month, when the Supreme Court sided with GIRE in a similar challenge to the penal code.
Mexico’s National Institute for Women described the new Supreme Court decision on Wednesday as a “big step” for gender equality, posting on X: “Today is a day for victory and justice for Mexican women!”
Former Supreme Court justice Senator Olga Sanchez Cordero said the ruling represented an advance towards “a more just society in which the rights of all are respected”.
But conservative opponents have vowed to continue fighting against expanded abortion access.
Irma Barrientos, director of the Civil Association for the Rights of the Conceived, said: “We’re not going to stop.
“Let’s remember what happened in the US. After 40 years the Supreme Court reversed its abortion decision and we’re not going to stop until Mexico guarantees the right to life from the moment of conception.”
More than 50 states were given the power to individually determine abortion rights after the landmark Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling was overturned in June 2022 – sparking an international outcry.
Meanwhile in the UK, thousands of abortion rights activists marched in London to protest against a woman jailed for illegally obtaining abortion pills to end her pregnancy during lockdown.
Mother-of-three Carla Foster was originally handed a 28-month prison term in June this year but was released after the Court of Appeal reduced her sentence.
One of the three judges, Dame Victoria Sharp, said: “This is a very sad case … it is a case that calls for compassion, not punishment, and where no useful purpose is served by detaining Ms Foster in custody.”
Claire Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said the court “recognised that this cruel, antiquated law does not reflect the values of society today” and urged parliament to decriminalise abortion as a “matter of urgency”.