Mexico Supreme Court Upholds Second State Abortion Ban Law

International   Steven Ertelt   Sep 30, 2011   |   12:15PM    Mexico City, Mexico

The Mexico Supreme Court has delivered a second victory for pro-life advocates there just one day after upholding a first state law protecting unborn children from abortions by validating a second.

Days ago, the nation’s high court upheld a pro-life amendment passed by the northwestern state of Baja California that calls unborn children people under law and protects them from abortions. Abortion is generally illegal in Mexico except in very rare circumstances, though the Federal District of Mexico City legalized abortions and women from other parts of the nation have started going there for abortions.

Now, the second of the two cases the high court was scheduled to consider — the pro-life amendment the north-central state of San Luis Potosi adopted — has resulted in another pro-life victory. San Luis Potosí’s pro-life amendment says, “The State of San Luis Potosí recognizes life as the foundation of all human rights, for which reason it respects and protects it from the moment of its beginning in conception. The death penalty is prohibited, and cannot be applied in any situation.”

The court said in a statement that it “based its analysis strictly on constitutional issues. That is, the issue under debate was the power of the states to legislate on topics that are not expressly determined by the federal constitution.” The latest decision makes it likely that right-to-life amendments passed by 16 of Mexico’s 31 states will stand, according to an AP report.

As in the first case, 7 of the 11 justices on the court voted to overturn the amendment, but eight justices are necessary to invalidate a state law.

In the first case, the judges on the high court in the Latin American nation debated the state law for three days and judges favoring overturning the law as unconstitutional lost their bid by one vote. The state law affords legal protection for unborn children starting at the moment of conception but the Baja California public ombudsman’s office challenged the law on behalf of state residents who opposed it.

“Our federal constitution recognizes as the holder of rights the product of conception, per se, with independence from the rights from the mother,” Justice Jorge Pardo said, according to the Catholic News Service.

The National Fraternity of Christian Evangelical Churches applauded the result, according to AP, saying, “Neither dogmas nor religious positions won, but on the contrary, it was a recognition for the secular nature of government and respect for the law, all of the body of laws, national and local.”

Justice Jose Fernando Franco González-Salas pushed for invalidating the law and similar measures 17 other Mexican states have enacted. Although the decision allows the Baja California law to stand, it is not binding on any of the other pro-life measures — meaning cases regarding the others could appear before the Supreme Court, which is already scheduled to consider at least one other legal challenge.

An Americans United for Life attorney, Mailee Smith, worked on the case and told LifeNews, “We argued before the Supreme Court of Mexico that the Court should respect Baja’s amendment because it protects women from the physical and psychological harms inherent in abortion.  With the Court’s decision, Baja can move forward to further protect both women and the unborn.”

Because the case dealt with whether a state can restrict abortion under the federal constitution in Mexico, the case had been dubbed Mexico’s “Roe v. Wade.”  The decision declared that the state’s constitution did not conflict with the nation’s constitution, because the rights of the unborn have long been recognized in Mexican federal law, Smith explained.

The case has sparked significant debate on abortion in Mexico — with both pro-life and pro-abortion advocates protesting in Mexico City. President Felipe Calderón and first lady Margarita Zavala, according to an AP report, both spoke in favor of the pro-life laws.

The laws in 18 states were passed as a result of the decision by Mexico City, governed by the center-left PRD party, to legalize abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Local members of Calderon’s PAN party pushed for the pro-life measures in their respective states in reaction to the Mexico City legalization.

Calderon has also pushed for protecting unborn children on a federal level and has called on the Mexico Senate to reverse a previous decision made under the Pact of San Jose on Human Rights in 1981 to not take up federal legislation protecting babies before birth. He says withdrawing would allow Mexico to endorse a “commitment to the right to life as a legal right protected under Mexican law” and that could have the effect of taking precedence over the Mexico City pro-abortion law.

The Archdiocese of Mexico City weighed in on the debate as well and said it didn’t know how the Supreme Court could consider overturning the pro-life law since it issued a 2008 ruling saying state governments can make their own decisions on health policy. In 2008, the court ruled, 8-3, to uphold the Mexico City law legalizing abortions.

“The issue is very simple: The states of the republic have the right to defend human life just as Mexico City expressed its right not to,” the archdiocese said, according to CNS.

Abortion advocates like Regina Tamez, director of the nonprofit Information Group on Informed Reproduction, told AP they are happy the court came within one vote of invalidating the pro-life laws: “There is one piece of good news: That is that seven of the 11 justices were defending the rights of women” over unborn children.