Mexico’s supreme court decriminalizes abortion

Mexico’s Supreme Court on Tuesday declared that it is unconstitutional to penalize abortion, with magistrates voting unanimously to decriminalize the procedure in the country.

Why it matters: Mexico — now the fifth Latin American country to decriminalize abortion — is now the most populous country in the region to allow the practice, the Washington Post reports. The country has the world’s second-largest Catholic population, after Brazil.

Eight of the 11 court judges had already expressed support for decriminalization in arguments leading up to the final decision.

State of play: The court ordered the northern state of Coahuila to remove a penalties for abortion from its criminal code, setting a path for nationwide decriminalization.

The law in Coahuila punished abortions with up to three years of incarceration, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal.

Of note: Mexico City was the only place in the country where abortions were decriminalized, but only until the first trimester.

The big picture: Abortion is still illegal in most of Latin America. Mexico is now the fifth Latin American country to decriminalize it, following Argentina, Cuba, Guayana and Uruguay.

By the numbers: More than 1 million abortions are performed in Mexico each year, per the Guttmacher Institute.

Most of these abortions occur in clandestine and unsafe conditions “due to profound stigma against the procedure, lack of trained providers, lack of knowledge of where to find a safe abortion and poor knowledge of the laws,” Guttmacher writes.

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