MEXICO CITY (OSV News) -- The Mexican bishops' conference expressed dismay with a recent Supreme Court ruling, decriminalizing abortion on the federal level. Along with several Mexican pro-life groups, they questioned the validity of the Sept. 6 decision, arguing it applies to the litigant and is not applicable nationwide.
In a Sept. 7 statement, the bishops' conference said the ruling "does not constitute a general declaration invalidating the articles that prohibit abortion in the federal criminal code, since they remain in effect for the rest of the population; nor does it represent an obligation for local legislatures to rush to change their respective criminal codes."
The conference based its statement on the high court granting an injunction known as an "amparo" to the Information Group on Reproductive Choice, known by its Spanish acronym as GIRE. Such injunctions are normally granted to individuals, while not invalidating laws, according to legal analysts.
Red Familia, a pro-family nongovernmental group, said in a statement, "Up until now GIRE has not proved that it is affected by the criminal code. The criminal code sanctions abortion for natural persons, but in this case it's a judicial person getting the amparo."
Representatives for the bishops' conference and Red Familia were not immediately available for comment.
The Supreme Court decision requires federal hospitals and health clinics to offer abortion services, according to GIRE. It estimated the federal health system -- which serves salaried workers, public employees and the poor -- covers 70% of the Mexican population.
The decision, approved by three of the five judges on the court's first bench, requires "Congress to repeal the regulations that criminalize voluntary abortion."
It followed an Aug. 30 ruling, which granted an amparo against abortion restrictions in Aguascalientes, one of Mexico's more conservative states. The court ordered the state legislature to scrap its abortion laws and decriminalized doctors performing abortions.
The Supreme Court said in its Sept. 8 statement: "The norms that penalize voluntary abortion, whether another person performs it or the woman or pregnant person procures it themself, are unconstitutional by completely annulling the right to decide."
"The (court) held that the criminalization of abortion constitutes an act of violence and discrimination based on gender, since it perpetuates the stereotype that women and pregnant people can only freely exercise their sexuality to procreate and reinforces the gender role imposed by motherhood as a mandatory destination."
The Aguascalientes decision means 12 of Mexico's 32 states have now decriminalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Mexico City was the first jurisdiction in Mexico to decriminalize abortion in 2007; 11 states have followed, starting with Oaxaca in 2019.
A 2021 decision decriminalizing abortion in the northern state of Coahuila established jurisprudence, allowing for challenges to abortion laws across the country.
The abortion decisions in Mexico continued a trend in Latin America of courts and legislatures removing abortion restrictions -- even as some U.S. states have moved to restrict the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned prior rulings making abortion access a constitutional right. Like parts of Mexico, Argentina and Colombia also have decriminalized abortion in recent years as a vocal feminist movement has taken to the streets in protests calling for expanded access.
Some countries in Central America still ban abortion in all circumstances, however.
Mexico goes to the polls in 2024 to choose a president, though analysts say life issues usually fail to move the masses -- unlike in the U.S. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has largely avoided speaking of abortion, partially as a sign the country has more important issues to address, such as corruption.
Actor and activist Eduardo Verástegui, who produced the popular movie "Sound of Freedom," registered Sept. 7 as an independent presidential candidate, saying on X, "My fight is for life. My fight is for freedom."
He also blasted the probable opposition coalition candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, for supporting abortion access. Claudia Sheinbaum, the ruling party's presumed candidate, has stated a similar position on supporting abortion access.
Verástegui must collect signatures from 1% of eligible voters to appear on the ballot.
The bishops' conference, meanwhile, promised to continue pushing for pro-life policies and attending to the needs of women.
"(The decision) does make evident a social reality that we must understand as pastors and attend to with due diligence," the bishops said.
"Along with the effort to protect the threatened dignity of the person," they said, "we affirm that the systematic violence exercised against women is deplorable and must be excluded from our culture, creating norms and laws that are truly just for this purpose."