Supreme Court of Mexico expected to rule today on new abortion law

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The NY Times has reported that the Supreme Court of Mexico is scheduled to vote today on whether to invalidate a Mexico City law that allows unrestricted abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. During the court’s deliberations, which apparently are conducted in public in what seems to resemble a legislative hearing, 8 of the 11 justices indicated that they would vote to uphold the law.

The federal attorney general had challenged the Mexico City law as beyond the scope of the local government’s powers. The case has been in litigation since shortly after the law was enacted, in April 2007.

If the Mexico City law stands, it will become one of the most progressive in Latin America. The precedent would also open up the possibility of other state-level governments in Mexico adopting similar laws.

The new law was strongly supported by Mexico City’s mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, who is reported to be positioning himself for the 2012 presidential race.

According to  the Associated Press:

“Since the law took effect, more than 12,000 women have had abortions at the 14 Mexico City hospitals providing them, according to the city health department.

“‘Of those, 20 percent have been from outside the capital,’ said Raffaela Schiavon, the director of the international abortion rights group [Ipas] who has been advising the city government.”

The AP report Includes a telling echo of the bogus psychological harm argument being used now in South Dakota by supporters of a ballot initiative that would prohibit most abortions. AP quotes one pro-life protester as saying, “They are not thinking about the psychological damage that the girls who have abortions go through.” An American Psychological Association task force report has debunked that myth, but the harm argument clearly has become part of the trans-national anti-choice rhetorical toolkit. The same argument is being used in Britain, where a proposal to limit access to abortions is scheduled for debate in the House of Commons in October. And of course, Justice Kennedy used it in Gonzales v. Carhart, 127 S. Ct. at 1634, sparking a feisty rejoinder from Justice Ginsberg.

There’s quite an irony in the backdrop for this story out of Mexico, since professional, well-run and illegal abortion clinics have operated there for decades.   Before Roe v. Wade, thousands of American women who could not obtain abortions in the U.S. (talk about psychological harm!) went to Mexico.

For better or worse, it appears that abortion has become part of the discourse of constitutional law and entered the realm of the judiciary in our neighbor to the south. Let’s hope their legal culture does a better job of handling it than ours has.

Nan Hunter, cross posted at hunter of justice

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