Mexico's top court decriminalizes abortion in 'watershed moment'

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, a major victory for advocates of women’s health and human rights, just as parts of the United States enact tougher laws against the practice.

The ruling in the majority Roman Catholic nation means that courts can no longer prosecute abortion cases.

It follows moves to decriminalize abortion at the state level, although most of the country still has tough laws in place against women terminating their pregnancy and hundreds of mostly poor women across the country are behind bars as a result.

Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldivar called the unanimous decision “a watershed moment” for all women, especially the most vulnerable.

The vote establishes a mandatory criteria for all judges in the country, making it no longer possible to prosecute any woman who has an abortion without violating the criteria of the court and the constitution, Zaldivar said.

While the judges said the decision could not be applied retroactively, some lawyers speculated that the ruling may open the possibility for already-convicted women to appeal their sentences.

A number of U.S. states have recently taken steps to restrict women’s access to abortion, particularly Texas, which last week enacted a sweeping ban on abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.

The ruling may lead to U.S. women in states such as Texas deciding to travel south of the border to terminate their pregnancies.

In July, the state of Veracruz here became just the fourth of Mexico’s 32 regions to decriminalize abortion.

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