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Mexico ends federal ban on abortion, but state restrictions remain

A Mexican Supreme Court ruling that invalidated all federal criminal penalties for abortion continued a regional trend of widening access to the procedure, but left in place a patchwork of varying state restrictions.

The high court ordered Wednesday that abortion be removed from the federal penal code, and will require the federal public health service and all federal health institutions to offer abortion to anyone who requests it.

That will mean access for millions of Mexicans. The social security service and other federal institutions provide health care to most people who work in the formal economy.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that provided a right to abortion nationwide. Since then, most states led by conservative lawmakers and governors have adopted bans or tighter restrictions.

The fact that the U.S. government is politically divided makes a nationwide ban or legalization unlikely, at least in the short term.

Currently, abortion is banned throughout pregnancy — with limited exceptions — in 15 American states. Bans in two more states forbid abortion after cardiac activity can be detected, generally around six weeks into pregnancy and often before women know they are pregnant. Judges have put enforcement of restrictions on hold in at least four additional states.

Meanwhile, states with liberal governments have taken steps to try to protect abortion access.

Observers in Mexico agreed that it would take time to see how Wednesday’s ruling is applied.

In the southern state of Guerrero, Marina Reyna, director of the Guerrero Association Against Violence toward Women, cautioned that challenges would persist. Her state decriminalized abortion last year, but there are 22 open investigations against women accused of ending their pregnancies.

“There is still a lot of resistance,” she said.


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