Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion nationwide on Wednesday in a sweeping decision that builds on an earlier ruling giving officials the authority to allow the procedure on a state-by-state basis.
The move by the court effectively makes abortion legally accessible in all of the country’s 32 states, up from just 12 states. The ruling in Mexico, a predominantly Catholic country of 130 million people, points to how nations in Latin America are taking a leading role in broadening reproductive rights.
In addition to Mexico, countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Guyana have moved to either legalize or decriminalize abortion. The regional trend stands in contrast to the United States, where the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 placed the country among a small group of nations making it harder for women to end their pregnancies.
Mexico’s Supreme Court, in a brief statement announcing the ruling, said that penalizing abortion was “unconstitutional” and “violates the human rights of women.”
The court’s ruling also reflects profound changes in Mexican society and some of its institutions. Much of Mexico remains culturally conservative, but decades of feminist activism have reshaped how many people in the country think about women’s rights. Reproductive rights groups have also fought to have abortion cases heard by the Supreme Court.
At the same time, the Supreme Court lost some conservative justices, and the chief justice, Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea, who was raised by practicing Catholic parents, emerged as an unexpected champion of abortion rights.