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  • Women demonstrate in of pro-choice legislation as the Supreme Court in Mexico City debates a proposal to decriminalize abortion.

    Women demonstrate in of pro-choice legislation as the Supreme Court in Mexico City debates a proposal to decriminalize abortion. | Photo: AFP

Published 30 June 2016

Women who seek illegal abortions in Mexico under the nationwide ban could face up to five years in prison under the current penal code.

Mexico’s Supreme Court threw out a proposal to legalize abortion on Wednesday in favor of upholding a longstanding ban that criminalizes women.

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The court voted 3-1 against a move to pave the way for on-demand abortion access, rejecting a request to declare unconstitutional two pieces of legislation that effectively outlaw abortion, limiting access to specific circumstances of pregnancy endangering the woman’s life or cases of rape.

The proposal sought to decriminalize abortion, which can land women up to five years in prison, by declaring such a criminal sentence unconstitutional. It also looked to greatly expand abortion access, arguing that the government should guarantee the right to safe abortions in public health institutions.

Supreme Court Justice Arturo Zaldivar, who championed the initiative, argued that current legislation around reproductive rights represents "real discrimination against women's health.”

The proposal was most directly inspired by one specific case of a 41-year-old woman’s request for abortion on medical grounds being denied because her pregnancy did not meet the narrow requirements.

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The proposal also argued for the need for safe access based on the fact that more than 2,000 women died between 1999 and 2013 after seeking unsafe underground abortions.

The Mexican court decision comes after the U.S. Supreme Court made a precedent-setting ruling this week on abortion access that protects the rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion as a constitutional right. The latest case struck down anti-choice legislation in Texas that strictly limited the number of abortion providers that could operate in the state.

Mexico’s Supreme Court justices said that new proposals on revisiting the abortion debate could be considered in the future.

Mexico City expanded pro-choice laws in 2007 and now allows for women to freely obtain abortions in the first three months of pregnancy.

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