Mexico’s Roe v. Wade moment
Pro-abortion court rulings undermine the wishes of country’s pro-life majority
At about 6 a.m. on Sept. 13, National Front for the Family President Rodrigo Ivan Cortes and a handful of other pro-lifers stood near the Supreme Court building in Mexico City. The sun wasn’t up yet, so the projected image of an unborn baby appeared vividly on the building of the clothing store behind them. The animated baby moved in slow motion as Cortes and others read their pro-life manifesto into microphones. The sound of a heartbeat played in the background.
The Supreme Court was scheduled that day to consider whether doctors had a right not to participate in abortions for conscience reasons, and Mexicans traveled from as far as the state of Chiapas in the south to the city of Monterrey in the north to demonstrate. By the time court proceedings finished that afternoon, thousands of pro-lifers packed the area, many wearing blue bandanas or holding blue flags bearing the Latin American pro-life symbol of an abstract mother and child. Cortes announced the results: The majority of justices indicated support for the conscience rights of pro-life doctors, though they put off the final vote for the following week. The crowd cheered and began chanting in Spanish, “We can make it!”
But on Monday, the court struck down the provision in federal health law that allows objecting doctors to opt out of procedures, including abortions. Two weeks before, the ministers issued two other rulings that removed protections for the unborn, paving the way for radical abortion laws despite the country’s pro-life majority.
On Sept. 7, the Mexican Supreme Court struck down part of the state of Coahuila’s penal code that criminalized abortion. The precedent will prevent other states from enforcing laws that punish abortionists. Two days later, the Supreme Court eliminated a portion of the state constitution of Sinaloa that declared the law protects humans from conception until death. That decision jeopardizes similar right-to-life statements in the constitutions of 22 Mexican states. Neither ruling legalizes abortion, but both make it easier to pass pro-abortion laws.
After the Supreme Court issued those two decisions, pro-life groups decided to assemble in Mexico City for the third case.
“What we needed was to show our ministers, to show our government, what Mexicans think,” said Alison Gonzales, director of the group in charge of Mexico’s March for Life. She pointed to recent polling showing that 90 percent of Mexicans say life is a right, while only 30 percent consider abortion a right.
Last year, when the court took up an abortion case out of the state of Veracruz, Cortes said government officials and the Supreme Court listened to their arguments and upheld the pro-life state law. But with the recent court cases, Cortes said, the government seemed less willing to talk about the issue.
He and other pro-life Mexicans speculate outside pressure could be affecting the government’s resolve. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, a staunch abortion supporter, made her first official trip to Mexico in June and had a phone call with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Aug. 9. Pro-lifers found out the court would take up the abortion cases near the end of that month.
On Sept. 9, the day the court issued the second pro-abortion ruling, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard participated in economic talks with Harris in Washington. “The government of the United States, it’s not nothing, it has more weight,” Cortes said.
Marcial Padilla, director of the conservative Mexican organization ConParticipación, hesitated to connect those events. He said the court last year ruled in favor of the pro-life law because technicalities weakened the argument against it. The judges made no assessment of the law’s constitutionality. In the 2021 case, the plaintiffs carefully constructed and delivered their arguments to deny the unborn right to life, giving the court the opportunity to declare pro-life laws unconstitutional.
Regardless of the factors that played into the high court’s decisions, pro-lifers in Mexico carefully watch the abortion debate in the United States. “We don’t want to face what you guys in the U.S.A. have faced,” Gonzales said. “We don’t need to be there to realize abortion is wrong. We’ve seen the mistakes people have made—countries have made, and we are ready to tell our country that abortion is not an option.”