Mexican Supreme Court invalidates state's pro-life law

Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea, president of Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea, president of Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation./ Ga am2 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Mexico’s Supreme Court on Tuesday invalidated several articles that protected life from conception in the penal code of the state of Coahuila, opening the door to legal abortion.

The ruling is expected to have wide-ranging effects throughout Mexico.

The Sept. 7 ruling had the approval of the 10 ministers present at the session, of the 11 who make up the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation.

One of the strongest expressions of support for the legalization of abortion was given by the president of the Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea, who classified it as "constitutional law" that "should not be criminally punishable."

Bishop Alfonso Gerardo Miranda Guardiola, Auxiliary Bishop of Monterrey and general secretary of the Mexican bishops’ conference, charged that the court "intends a series of violations" against human life by opening the doors to abortion throughout the country, while saying a Mass at the Mexican bishops’ Ongoing Formation Week. 

Elective abortion has been legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in Mexico City and the states of Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Veracruz.

In a statement sent to ACI Prensa, the National Front for the Family regretted that "today Mexico is dressed in mourning".

"The ministers of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation were not congruent and respectful of their own rulings, since the states of the country and their congresses enjoy, by constitutional mandate, freedom to legislate in areas of their competence and in matters not reserved for the Federation”, it added.

The FNF pointed out that “today the reforms in favor of the right to life that have a legal basis, recognized nationally and internationally and are protected in national treaties, conventions, and norms, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention American Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States itself”.

The ruling of the Supreme Court currently affects only Coahuila.

However, it could affect future changes in state criminal codes on abortion, which could be challenged and sent to the highest judicial body in Mexico, where they would suffer the same fate.

Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the FNF, recalled that “in recent polls we can see that two out of three Mexicans strongly support life and with a lot of human sense and common sense they know that life must prevail over other rights, because it is the condition for others can even be enjoyed”.

In addition, he noted, “96% of people imprisoned for the crime of abortion are men, many of them responsible for physical and sexual assaults against women, while in Coahuila, whose constitution defends the right to life, there are no women deprived of their liberty”.

"The recognition of the right to life from conception does not violate women's rights or jeopardize their safety, on the contrary, it protects them," he said.

Marcial Padilla, director of the pro-life platform ConParticipación, agreed that this "is a sad day in the history of Mexico."

“On this day, the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico carried out the greatest injustice, the supreme injustice, which is to take away the protection of the law from children before they are born.”

Padilla stressed that "abortion does not solve any of the woman's problems", but rather "leaves her alone and makes her the mother of a dead child."

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"From now on, society is going to have to act," he continued. "First of all, to convert the attitude of violence, of aggression, that exists in the country."

"Not only with abortion, but also with kidnapping, homicides and family violence, in a new attitude of solidarity, where we respect each other," he said.

Padilla also said that "we will also have to begin to identify strategies to find what protection we can give our children before they are born."

"We are particularly hurt by the presentation by Minister Arturo Zaldívar, who was of the opinion that the entire abortion chapter should disappear, that is, that it should be possible to abort until the moment of birth," he said.

Padilla said, “Something has to change in our country. We will start the groups that are in favor of the right to life, a path that begins today and that will not stop until we return to having all our children protected before and after being born equally.”

Mario Romo, national director of Red Familia, noted that “the SCJN was not congruent or respectful of its own rulings, especially when they are ethically and constitutionally obliged to respect the rule of law and be guarantors of the constitutionality of the performance of the powers of the Union,” adding that “the ministers voted in favor of opinions and ideological currents of thought.”

Romo specified that "the constitutional guarantee of the right to life from its inception at conception does not violate the rights of any woman, nor does it call into question their legal security, health, or freedom; on the contrary, it protects them."

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In the coming days Mexico’s Supreme Court will also consider the "shielding" of the right to life in the Sinaloa state constitution, and the conscientious objection of health professionals.

Cortés said that if the Supreme Court declares unconstitutional the shielding of life in a state constitution, "it would incur a supreme contradiction, because in what he has said to date is that the states have the sovereign power to legislate on the matter."

“If a constitution, which expresses in the highest degree the sovereignty of a state, is invalidated, what the Supreme Court would be doing is to contradict itself, violating the sovereignty of a state and violating the Federal Pact, which gives origin to Mexico as a republic”, he stated.

In July 2020 a panel of the Supreme Court had overturned a lower court's ruling that could have opened the door to legalized abortion throughout the country. In a 4-1 ruling, the panel of justices rejected a lower court's attempt to require the state of Veracruz to legalize abortion.

And earlier this year, the administration of president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and legislators from his ruling National Regeneration Movement had decided to put on hold a debate on amending the federal constitution to insert abortion rights and gender ideology.