Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mexico Supreme Court: constitution does not ban abortion

In a sort of obverse Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court of Mexico last Thursday ruled 8-3 that Mexico City did not violate the Mexican Constitution by permitting abortions. Mexico City broke with the rest of the nation and most of Latin America last year when it legalized abortion in the first trimester.

As I understand it from press reports, the federal government challenged the law on two grounds: first, that Mexican cities lack the power to pass health laws (the court rejected this argument 10-1) and second, that the Constitution requires the criminalization of abortion in order to protect the right to life. This right is situated in a clause similar to our Due Process Clause - individuals shall not be deprived of life, liberty, etc. The court rejected this argument, apparently concluding that the constitutional right to life does not extend to fetuses. According to Justice Guillermo Ortiz:
"It's not up to the Supreme Court to legalize or criminalize abortion."
One protester's take on the decision was revealing:
"They are just encouraging women to be dirty and loose."
Undoubtedly there will be much more debate, legislation and litigation on abortion in Mexico in years to come, but the high court's decision at least resolves one major issue: limits on abortion are not required by the constitution. Presumably social conservatives in Mexico will now be arguing for a constitutional amendment impose criminalization nationwide, similar to the one called for in this year's (and previous years') GOP platform (PDF).

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