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Mexico leads the way in defending abortion access 

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pexels hugo entrepreneur 3800834 Mexico leads the way in defending abortion access 

Mexico and the United States may share a border but their trajectories over the right to abortion have been vastly different. As Mexico liberalizes abortion laws, the United States is regressing on access to care.

It was cause to celebrate that last week the Supreme Court in Mexico issued a ruling to decriminalize abortion across the country. This decision means that people throughout Mexico will be able to access abortion at federal health care facilities, even in the 20 states where abortion is still banned. Due to the fact that 70 percent of the Mexican population is on the federal health system, this ruling has a major impact for millions of people.

The high court’s statement explained, “The criminalization of abortion constitutes an act of violence and discrimination based on gender, since it perpetuates the stereotype that women and pregnant persons can only freely exercise their sexuality to procreate.”

Meanwhile, the United States rapidly continues to dismayingly roll back abortion care. Currently, 22 states ban or severely restrict abortion, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s home state of Wisconsin. And the Supreme Court of Florida recently made a harrowing decision about the future of abortion in the so-called Sunshine State.

Last Friday, the high court of Florida heard a case regarding a 15-week abortion ban that had been signed into law by religious right favorite Gov. Ron DeSantis. During the hearing, Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz referred to Roe v. Wade as an “abomination” and appeared to  imbue fetuses with legal personhood by calling them a “whole class of human beings” who could be put “outside the protection of the law.” Additionally, the attorney representing Florida, Henry Whitaker, equated abortion to infanticide.

Based on the preliminary hearing, it appears that the court is open to upholding the 15-week abortion ban, which, even worse, would trigger the six-week abortion ban signed into law in April. Should this take place, abortion will be effectively banned throughout the majority of the South after six weeks of gestation. This is far earlier than when most people even know that they are pregnant.

The juxtaposition of the future of abortion in the United States and Mexico is jarring. Both countries have a strong Christian majority of citizens. Yet, one country is prioritizing human rights, while the other is prioritizing religion.

To be clear, neither Mexico nor the United States have official religions. However, Roman Catholicism is an important part of Mexico’s culture, with 80 percent of the population so identifying. Meanwhile, a 2021 Gallup poll revealed that less than half of U.S. adults belong to a religious congregation and Pew Research found that 30 percent of Americans do not identify with a religion.

Nevertheless, Christian nationalism has infiltrated all levels of the U.S. court system, impacting reproductive health laws and LGBTQ-plus legislation. On the U.S. Supreme Court itself, a conservative majority of Roman Catholics voted to overturn Roe v. Wade (five of those six justices are Catholic, and the sixth, Neil Gorsuch, was brought up Catholic).

More than 60 countries have liberalized abortion care in the last 30 years. The United States has become an outlier, one of only four countries to regress in the legality of abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Unsurprisingly, the other three countries (Nicaragua, Poland and El Salvador), are also highly influenced by Roman Catholicism in their courts.

The underlying message is clear: Mexico and other countries in Latin America show that it is possible to have a culturally religious majority while remaining a secular democracy that prioritizes science and human rights. As a nation founded on the separation of state and church, the United States has no excuse for allowing Christian nationalism to take center stage in our laws, including those related to reproductive health care.

Secular activists and voters must come together so that we can start to move forward and join the majority of the world in advancing abortion care.

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