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As Texas Tightens Abortion Restrictions, Mexico’s Supreme Court Decriminalizes The Procedure

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Only a handful of states allow abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. The decision could pave the way for more legalized abortion across Mexico.

From Texas Standard:

As abortion restrictions tighten in Texas, Mexico's highest court ruled to decriminalize the procedure, possibly paving the way for more widespread legal abortion in that country.

Mary Beth Sheridan, Mexico and Central America correspondent for The Washington Post, told Texas Standard that Mexico's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that criminal penalties for abortion were unconstitutional. She expects it to lead to broader changes to state and local abortion laws and removal of the criminal penalties associated with them.

"The expectation is that states will begin to create new avenues, or broaden the legal avenues, for abortion. So, it won't lead to legalized abortion overnight, but there is an expectation that in many states it will become easier to get an abortion," she said.

Abortions have so far been legal up to 12 weeks into a person's pregnancy in Mexico City and in a handful of the country's 31 states. Elsewhere, the rules were more stringent.

The push to decriminalize abortion in Mexico has been a hard-fought one. Pro-abortion activists have retooled their messaging in recent years, Sheridan says, to focus on the laws' disproportionately negative effects on poor and young Mexicans. Many who have sought abortions have had to do so in secret. Sheridan cites an estimate of about 1 million illegal abortions each year in Mexico.

"The fact there's so much illegal abortion, which is often clandestine, you know, without a doctor, means that there are many cases of women who wind up harmed or even dead because of the ways in which they try to terminate their pregnancy," she said.

To reiterate, the court's ruling doesn't legalize abortion, but it could set the stage for that in the future. For now, it takes away punishments like imprisonment for those who've had abortions.

Sheridan says it could also lead to some Texans seeking abortions to do so in Mexico, since Texas is further restricting the treatment.

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Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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