Mexico Supreme Court Upholds State Pro-Life Amendment

By Dave Andrusko

Mexican President Felipe Calderón

By the narrowest of margins, Mexico’s Supreme Court yesterday upheld the right of a state to amend its constitution to declare that  life begins at conception.  Although seven of the eleven-member court voted to overturn the amendment,  eight votes are needed to overturn a law on grounds of unconstitutionality.

In 2008 the legislature of Baji California amended its constitution, one of eighteen of Mexico’s 31 states to adopt right-to-life amendments in the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding Mexico City’s new law that legalized abortion on demand in the first trimester.

The amendment establishes a person’s right to legal protection “from the moment an individual is conceived.” The legal challenge was filed by the  state’s human rights ombudsman.

There was an extra layer of suspense because two justices have  joined the Court since the justices upheld Mexico City’s abortion law in 2008. One justice voted to uphold the Baja California amendment (Justice Margarita Luna Ramos), the other to invalidate it. The Court is scheduled to hear a similar amendment, this time from the north-central state of San Luis Potosi.

The decision followed three days of debate and appeared to revolve largely around the issue of what states are allowed to do. In a statement the Court said that it “based its analysis strictly on constitutional issues. That is, the issue under debate was the power of the states to legislate on topics that are not expressly determined by the federal constitution.”

For example, Justice Ramos “voted in favor of the Baja California measure, after arguing that just as states have legal authority to allow abortion, they are free to declare that life begins at conception,” according to Ken Ellingwood of the Los Angeles Times.

Ironically, the pro-abortion victory in Mexico City had the exact opposite effect of what was predicted—more and more states legalizing abortion.

“Instead, opponents worked to enact constitutional amendments declaring that life begins at conception,” according to Ellingwood. President Felipe Calderón and First Lady Margarita Zavala have taken strong pro-life positions.

Calderón has asked the Senate to withdraw a reservation to the first paragraph of Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights. “Mexico entered into the treaty in 1981, but interpreted the provision the same year so that it would not oblige the country to protect life from conception,” according to Christiannewswire.

“Mexico has recognized human rights enshrined in international treaties such as the American Convention of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among them the right to life, which is protected by our legislation, both federal and local,” read Calderon’s statement. “Mexico endorses a commitment to the right to life as protected by Mexican law.”

First lady Margarita Zavala endorsed the pro-life amendment in an editorial written this week.

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