Believe it or not, Mexico is potentially opening the gates to Texas women who may want to seek safe abortions and evade all those private citizens the state just turned into abortion-avengers.
In a stunning turn of events for women’s rights, Mexico’s Supreme Court on Tuesday decriminalized abortion in the heavily Catholic country.
The court ruling doesn’t automatically provide blanket legal protection across Mexico, but it paves the way to legalize the procedure currently allowed in only four states – Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Hidalgo.
Abortion rights activists hailed the landmark ruling as potentially transformational not just in Mexico but throughout Latin America, where abortion is still largely criminalized.
Arturo Zaldívar, the court’s chief justice, said as much: “now begins a new path of freedom, of clarity, of dignity and respect for all pregnant people, but above all, for women.”
Criminalization does not stop abortion
There is still hard work ahead to legalize the procedure in each Mexican state, but what the court did sharply contrasts what the pro-life movement is doing to outlaw abortion in the United States.
Let’s face the facts. No laws, however harsh, will stop women from seeking abortions. It merely sends them underground or across the border.
Criminalization hasn’t stopped millions from seeking abortion each year throughout Latin America, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It certainly won’t stop Texas women, either, especially if they could just drive a few miles south of the border to get a safe abortion without facing severe penalties.
Coincidently, Mexico’s court ruling applies directly to two states. One of them is Coahuila, which shares a border with Texas.
Texas, as you know, has a new law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and has turned private citizens into bounty hunters.
Under the Texas law, private citizens from anywhere are free to file a civil lawsuit against a person who helps pregnant women for a $10,000 reward for every civil case won.
Could Mexico be the safest option for Texas women?
It would hardly be the first time that the U.S.-Mexico border provides cover for abortion seekers, as Lina-Maria Murillo writes in The Washington Post.
Murillo, an author and assistant professor at the University of Iowa, points out how American women started traveling to Mexico to end their pregnancies following a crackdown on “abortion mills” following World War II.
The border region, she writes, provided cover for all sorts of “illicit activities as gambling, prostitution and alcohol consumption during Prohibition.”
That also included abortion.
“By the 1940s, abortion providers began appearing along Mexico’s northern border in cities such as Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, largely to serve U.S. residents in search of abortion care,” Murillo writes. “They weren’t legal, but police, judges and attorneys in Mexico took kickbacks and turned a blind eye to the emerging business.”
Things are different now – at least in Coahuila where abortion is or will be soon legal and which could become a mecca for Texas women.
Paula Avila-Guillen, the executive director of Women’s Equality Center, said in a statement reported by Newsweek that Mexico’s Supreme Court ruling “begs the question: could the safest way for Texas women to have access to a safe, legal abortion soon be to make their way to Mexico?”
It sure looks to be the case, and that’s the irony of it all.
How ironic that the pro-life folks – often the same ones raging against border-crossers seeking a better and safer life in America – could now be forcing Texas women to flock to Mexico to end their pregnancy.
Elvia Díaz is an editorial columnist for The Republic and azcentral. Reach her at 602-444-8606 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @elviadiaz1.
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