[JURIST] The Mexican Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday ruled [session transcript, PDF, in Spanish] that a law permitting first-trimester abortions [JURIST news archive] in Mexico City does not violate the Mexican Constitution [PDF text, in Spanish]. The federal attorney general and the National Human Rights Commission [official websites, in Spanish] brought a lawsuit [case materials; JURIST report] last year challenging provisions of the Mexico City Criminal Code and Health Law [PDF text, in Spanish] that allow unrestricted abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Following 17 hours of public hearings [links to recorded video], the Supreme Court voted 8-3 to uphold the provisions. According to a court press release [text, in Spanish], Chief Justice Guillermo I. Ortiz Mayagoitia [official profile, in Spanish] noted that the decision neither approves nor disapproves of abortion but rather embraces the principle that the court should not establish crimes or penalties. He said: "We have determined the constitutionality of a law approved by a representative body, and in this case we have participated in a decision of great national significance." AP has more. From Mexico City, El Universal has local coverage, in Spanish.
Proponents of abortion rights praised the decision and predicted liberalization of abortion laws throughout Mexico [JURIST news archive] and Latin America. Dr. Raffaela Schiavon, head of the women's rights group Ipas [advocacy website] in Mexico, said [press release]:
This decision is of transcendental importance, not only for human rights, but as a stand for the secular state against religious fundamentalism. It is a lesson for the future, not only for Mexico City, but for the entire country and for the whole region.
Since Mexico City legislators passed the law [JURIST report] last year, more than 12,000 women have undergone legal abortions, compared with fewer than 70 in the four years prior. Elsewhere in Latin America, the Uruguayan Senate last year also voted to decriminalize abortion, while the Colombian Supreme Court in 2006 legalized exceptions to that nation's abortion ban [JURIST reports], permitting the procedure for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or endangering a woman's health.