State lawmakers look to Mexico for direction in fight for abortion rights


A group of state legislators turned their attention to their southern neighbor for guidance and direction on how to navigate newly restricted The legal landscape in the United States regarding miscarriage.

The Supreme Court of Mexico Ruled to decriminalize abortion In the past year, decades of restrictive laws in the Catholic-majority country have been relaxed and led to more lenient laws in many states.

The ruling represents a stark contrast to the US Supreme Court ruling last month To overturn the Roe v. Wade case A decision to reverse 50 years of precedent and allow individual states to criminalize or severely reduce abortion care.

Now, because the landscape of abortion access that legislators faced until recently in Mexico closely resembles the terrain in parts of the United States, state lawmakers are beginning to learn how policymakers and women’s health advocates in Mexico have worked to provide safe abortion care. For women – and how they regained certain abortion rights.

“Being able to go to Mexico, visit activists who have been doing the work on the ground for so many years, who changed the culture, changed what was possible, who really forced lawmakers and health care providers to think differently about abortion like Julie Gonzalez, Democratic Senator said. About the state of Colorado I traveled across Mexico with five other lawmakers earlier this summer to learn more about the activism there has been.

The landscape has changed in Mexico on abortion

The trip, organized by a progressive legislative policy group called Exchange of country innovationsis designed for state legislators to get a better idea of ​​how grassroots and progressive policy efforts can help bring about meaningful changes in abortion rights.

Organizers said the Mexico track provided an interesting case study.

When Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in September 2021 to decriminalize abortion, experts said the decision, over time, He opened the door to legalizing abortion throughout the Catholic-majority country.

As of May, Nine out of 32 states in Mexico have laws or measures that legalize the right to receive abortion care during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, even though laws criminalizing abortion are still in force in many other states in the country.

Unlike the United States, Mexican law, prior to the ruling, subjected both patients and abortion providers to criminal penalties, including imprisonment. Many abortion rights advocates celebrated the ruling on the grounds that it would now be unconstitutional to punish abortion as a crime.

Remains unclearWhether doctors in the largely religiously conservative country are more willing to administer abortion care, experts said. The court also, in a separate ruling, imposed restrictions on conscientious objection as a reason for non-delivery of care in many health care facilities, According to abortion advocates. This has led, in fact, to medical abortion It has become the most common form of care provided.

Abortion advocates and lawmakers credit a decades-long wave of activism in Mexico and Latin America that they say has led to steady gains in abortion rights. Six months after the initial decision, Mexico’s Supreme Court also Ruled that underage girls can receive Sponsoring an abortion without parental consent if they became pregnant as a result of rape.

Lawmakers said they are closely studying this broad effort as they aimed to rebuild similar efforts in the United States, after there is no longer a constitutional right to abortion.

Abortion rights protesters march to demand the decriminalization of abortion during World Abortion Day in Mexico City on September 28, 2021.Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images

lessons learned

During their trip, the six legislators gathered in Mexico, where they met with abortion providers, political activists and legislators who fought for years for abortion rights.

The biggest takeaway? Their ability to convince others that abortion care equals health care.

“We’ve seen how in Mexico interrupting a pregnancy of up to 12 weeks is viewed as healthcare,” said Jennifer Driver, senior director of reproductive rights at the State Innovation Exchange, which organized the trip.

From a political perspective, lawmakers have suggested that one of the most important lessons they have drawn is extensive and inexpensive access to medical abortion.

“Physicians and activists are really moving away from the clinic model and really turning toward the ability to use medical abortion in order to help increase capacity,” said Gonzalez, the Colorado legislator.

Medical abortion in Mexico is the standard for abortion before 12 weeks, said Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton, a Democrat from Arizona, and “I think in Arizona, that’s probably our way forward.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland He said he believed States have no right to ban abortion pills, leading to potential legal confrontation Even with some countries moving to ban them. But some lawmakers remain optimistic.

“The promise we see in our sisters, south of the Rio Grande, is the fact that we can use them as our model here,” said Linda Lopez, a Democratic senator from New Mexico who took part in the trip.

“It won’t stay forever,” she added, referring to the consequences of US rule.

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