[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday upheld a state right-to-life constitutional amendment that says life begins at conception. The amendment effectively bans abortions [AP report] in Mexico's northern Baja California state. Seven of 11 justices on the court, who argued that the issue was a federal and not state issue, voted to overturn the amendment, but failed to meet the requisite eight votes to overturn the law on constitutional grounds. Sixteen Mexican states have adopted similar amendments, though most states permit abortion in limited circumstances. Mexico City [official website, in Spanish] legislators voted legalize abortion within the city [JURIST report] in April 2007.
Abortion is generally illegal throughout the heavily Roman Catholic country, with exceptions only for cases of rape. Mexico City previously loosened the country's restriction to allow abortions when the health of the mother was in danger. Conservatives in the country, including President Felipe Calderon [official website, in Spanish] and his National Action Party (PAN) [party website, in Spanish] are strongly opposed to any relaxation of abortion law. Others say that the current laws endanger poor women who, unlike wealthier Mexicans, cannot afford to travel to the US for the surgery and so must resort to unsafe back-alley abortions. In 2006, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] conducted an extensive study of abortion availability for rape victims in Mexico [study text], finding that those seeking legal abortions often are intimidated with insults and threats of legal retaliation by both prosecutors and health workers.