MEXICO CITY – Scores of women took part on Friday in a march to Mexico’s Supreme Court to demand the nationwide decriminalization of abortion, days after the tribunal overturned a lower-court ruling that feminists saw as a step toward eliminating criminal penalties for terminating a pregnancy.
The marchers were vastly outnumbered by police, who prevented the protesters from reaching the Supreme Court building, located on Mexico City’s giant central square, the Zocalo.
Police commanders met with march organizers at the start of the procession with the aim of reaching accords that would ensure the demonstration went off peacefully.
“The idea is that your idea or thought be heard in a calm way. I am a woman, I empathize with that and I’m going to protect you,” the municipal police force’s senior female officer, Itzania Otero, told the group.
Just a few minutes into the march, however, some of the protesters grew agitated over the sudden appearance of some male cops.
Arriving in the Zocalo, the activists encountered a large number of police with plastic shields blocking their approach to the Supreme Court, leading to some tense moments before the protesters withdrew toward the center of the plaza.
Though the level of participation was nothing like the massive turnout for feminist mobilizations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no lack of passion.
Women’s rights advocates were bitterly disappointed when the Supreme Court voted on Wednesday to throw out a ruling by a federal judge in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz ordered the state legislature to pass legislation decriminalizing abortion.
“It’s important to exercise pressure so that Veracruz and the rest of the country be in favor of women’s bodily autonomy,” one of the marchers told EFE, declining to give her name.
Without legislation guaranteeing access to safe, legal abortion at no cost as “a basic right,” she said, women forced to resort to clandestine termination procedures will continue to die or go to jail.
Mexico’s Supreme Court has recognized the legality of abortion, but four of the five judges who heard the Veracruz case rejected the lower-court ruling on what they described as procedural grounds.
Had the high court upheld the ruling, it would have established a precedent for women in other states to ask judges to issue similar instructions to those legislatures.
While terminating a pregnancy is permitted in the case of rape throughout Mexico and most states also allow it to preserve the life and the health of the mother, only in Mexico City and the state of Oaxaca is abortion fully legal.