State legislators in Mexico are seeking direction in the fight for abortion rights

A group of state lawmakers has turned their attention to their southern neighbor for advice and guidance on navigating a new restrictive legal landscape in the US regarding abortion.

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled last year to decriminalize abortion, relaxing decades of restrictive laws in the predominantly Catholic nation, leading to more permissive laws in several states.

The ruling stands in stark contrast to the US Supreme Court’s decision last month in Roe v. Wade — a decision that reversed 50 years of precedent and allowed individual states to ban or severely restrict abortion.

As the abortion accessibility landscape faced by lawmakers in Mexico until recently more closely resembles the terrain in parts of the US, US state legislators have begun to learn how Mexican politicians and women’s health advocates have managed to Providing women with safe abortion care — and how they reclaimed certain abortion rights.

“To be able to go to Mexico and visit activists who have been working there for many, many years, who have changed the culture of what’s possible, has really forced legislators and health care providers to think differently about abortion than To see healthcare and then see how politics, the legal landscape and the medical landscape have changed as a result has been incredibly impressive,” said Julie Gonzales, a Colorado state senator who toured Mexico with five other lawmakers earlier this summer .

Mexico’s changing landscape on abortion

The trip, organized by State Innovation Exchange, a progressive legislative policy group, was designed for state legislators to get a better sense of how fundamental and progressive policy efforts could help bring about meaningful abortion rights change.

Mexico’s trajectory provided an interesting case study, organizers said.

When Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled to decriminalize abortion in September 2021, experts said the decision would, over time, open the door to legalizing abortion throughout the heavily Catholic country.

As of May, nine of Mexico’s 32 states had enacted laws or policies legalizing the right to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, although many other states in the country still have laws criminalizing abortion.

Unlike the US, prior to the verdict, Mexican law imposed criminal penalties, including jail terms, on both patients and abortion providers. Many abortion rights advocates celebrated the ruling, mainly on the grounds that it would now be unconstitutional to criminalize abortion as a crime.

Remains not clear, experts asked whether doctors in the largely religiously conservative country have so far been more willing to take care of abortions. The court, in a separate ruling, also set limits on conscientious objection as a reason for not offering abortion treatment in many health facilities, so the proponents of abortion rights. This has actually led to medical abortion becoming the most popular form of care.

Abortion advocates and lawmakers credited a decade-long surge in activism in Mexico and Latin America that resulted in steady gains for abortion rights. Six months after the first decision, Mexico’s Supreme Court also ruled that underage girls could receive abortion treatment without parental consent if they became pregnant as a result of rape.

Lawmakers said they are scrutinizing this broad effort as they aim to rebuild a similar one in the US now that there is no longer a constitutional right to abortion.

Pro-abortion protesters march in Mexico City
Pro-abortion rights protesters march to demand the decriminalization of abortion during International Safe Abortion Day in Mexico City September 28, 2021.Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images file

Lessons learned

During their trip, the six lawmakers traversed Mexico and met with abortion providers, political activists and lawmakers who had been fighting for abortion rights for years.

The biggest souvenir? Your ability to convince others that abortion equals health care.

“We saw how abortion up to 12 weeks is considered preventive health care in Mexico,” said Jennifer Driver, senior director of reproductive rights at the State Innovation Exchange, which organized the trip.

From a policy standpoint, lawmakers suggested that one of the key lessons they took away was universal and affordable access to medical abortion.

“Doctors and activists are really moving away from the clinic model and are really moving towards the possibility of using medical abortions to increase capacity,” said Gonzales, the Colorado lawmaker.

In Mexico, medical abortion is the standard for 12-week abortions, said Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, a Democratic senator from Arizona, and “I think in Arizona, that’s probably going to be our way forward.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he believes states do not have the right to ban abortion pills, which would create a potential legal showdown even if some states do move to ban them. However, some lawmakers remain optimistic.

“The promise we see in our sisters south of the Rio Grande is that we can use them as role models here,” said Linda Lopez, a Democratic senator from New Mexico who attended the trip.

“It won’t last forever,” she added, referring to the consequences of the US verdict. State legislators in Mexico are seeking direction in the fight for abortion rights

Fry Electronics Team

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