Mexico’s state of Nuevo Leon has approved legislation that “recognizes the right to life from conception," essentially outlawing abortion for any reason in the northern territory.
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To cries of protest outside the state capital in Monterrey, state legislators approved the “right to life” measure 30 votes in favor, eight against with two abstentions.
Abortion rights advocates who say the constitutional reform further criminalizes women who chose to have an abortion gathered Wednesday at the capitol building with signs reading "legal abortion now," and "Right to decide."
The Nuevo Leon constitutional text now reads: “The state recognizes and protects the right to life that every human being has … from the moment of conception."
Fondo MARIA, a sexual and reproductive rights organization in Mexico, said in a Facebook message that the reform is “unconstitutional” and “will not be an obstacle to access to legal abortion” for women in Nuevo Leon because they have the right to terminate their pregnancy in the case of rape or when a woman’s life is at risk.
The organization’s director, Oriana Lopez says the reform, which had been stagnant for five years in the Congress, is “unconstitutional," and the state is trying to supercede federal abortion rights.
Lopez noted in the statement: "It is not that this reform automatically cancels the causes established by the penal code, which are still in force, along with (legal measure) NOM-046 to guarantee women's access to abortion in case of rape.
“NOM-046 is a regulation in force at the national level that allows women victims of sexual violence to have access to legal abortion without having to go before the police to make a report,” declared Lopez.
Rebeca Ramos who heads the Public Policies of the Information Group on Assisted Reproduction (GIRE) says the reform can’t be enforced on its own because the penal code would need to be changed in order to put the new measure into effect.
"In reality for abortion to be completely prohibited (legislators) would have to modify the Penal Code of the state and that did not happen," said Ramos Wednesday.
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This has "happened in 18 other (Mexican) states where wording similar to this (has been added to constitutions) where a fetus considered as an individual from the moment of conception, but in reality in legal terms the state has the obligation to guarantee access to abortion in the causes already established," stated Ramos to reporters.
Currently, abortion is legal in 24 states if the woman’s life is in danger and the right to terminate is protected in 16 states if serious birth defects or genetic disorders are identified in the fetus. Fourteen states allow abortions if the woman’s health is threatened, according to Open Democracy.
On paper, all 32 Mexican states permit abortion in cases of reported rape, even though they are still often denied their legal right, which the United Nations has declared "torture."
Surrounded by steep conservative states, Mexico City is the only Mexican territory that allows abortions up to 12 weeks after conception.
The Human Rights Commission of Nuevo Leon, which ruled against the approved proposal agrees the move is trying to usurp federal law. "Is not compatible with the parameters of human rights (protections) the federal government observes," said a commission spokesperson.
The initiative was presented in 2014 by the former PAN (National Party) legislator, Luis Francisco Treviño Cabello.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sanchez Cordero told the president Wednesday "penalizing abortion is criminalizing women."