“The green tide continues to advance": Mexican Supreme Court Decriminalizes Abortion

Decades of activism have challenged preconceived ideas of women’s rights, reshaping the broader role of women in Mexican society as evidenced by a change in law.

Sep 25, 2023

![Image description: Illustration of a person with a green bandana tied over their face, wearing a shirt of two people holding hands. The background is bright green with a black cord twisting through the middle. End ID.]( decriminalizes abortion -Maitha .jpg)
On Sept. 6, Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion at the federal level.
“The First Chamber of the Court ruled that the legal system that penalizes abortion in the Federal Criminal Code is unconstitutional, since it violates the human rights of women and people with the capacity to gestate,” shared the Supreme Court on social media.
In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled in favor of an injunction filed by the Information Group on Elected Reproduction, a leading abortion rights group in the country. The injunction was against four articles of the federal law that have prison sanctions for women who practice abortion. The Court’s ruling states that criminalization of abortion perpetuates structural discrimination and reinforces the gender role that imposes motherhood as a compulsory destiny for women. An important aspect of the ruling is its retroactive effects, that is, people already facing charges related to the four articles in question can be freed.
Before this ruling, abortion had been decriminalized in 12 out of 32 states, the most recent one being Aguascalientes on Aug. 30. The movement towards decriminalizing abortion in the country has been long, starting in 2007 with Mexico City's first abortion decriminalization law and taking 12 years for a second state, Oaxaca, to follow suit. However, the past three years have seen a swift change in the constitutional reform of the law; 10 states repelled the law before the landmark Supreme Court decision.
As a result of this ruling, abortion is now legally accessible in all federal health institutions across the country. The ruling does not make abortion legal on a state level as it has no effect on local laws. However, even when locally illegal, women can still seek legal abortion procedures in federal medical facilities. The ruling also protects healthcare workers involved in providing such abortion care from facing criminal charges.
The ruling was recognized around the world — for instance, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, hailed the court’s ruling as a great victory for Mexican women in their decades-long fight for their health, sexual and reproductive rights, and bodily autonomy. He also mentioned that this ruling is a reminder of the importance of having an independent judicial power committed to the defense of human rights. He urged Mexican states to change their local laws to decriminalize and guarantee safe and legal abortion in accordance with state obligations derived from international human rights law.
Wednesday’s decision is the latest victory for women’s rights activists in the country and reflecting profound changes in Mexico in the past decade. Although, as the world's second-largest catholic country Mexico remains culturally conservative, decades of activism have challenged preconceived ideas of women’s rights, reshaping the broader role of women in society. This ruling points to how Latin American countries are taking a leading role in widening access to abortion: Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname all have a complete ban on abortion.
Scarlette Jimenez is Managing Editor. Email them at
gazelle logo