MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to punish those who get an abortion.
The court on Tuesday unanimously annulled several provisions of a state law from Coahuila that had made abortion a criminal act.
The decision will immediately only affect that state on the Texas border, but court President Arturo Zaldívar says it establishes “obligatory criteria for all of the country’s judges,” compelling them to act the same way in similar cases.
Only four states – Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Hidalgo – allow abortion in most circumstances.
The other 28 states penalize abortion with some exceptions.
The court’s decision Tuesday sets a landmark legal precedent for potentially legalizing abortion across the nation, which has one of the largest Catholic populations in the world. The Catholic Church broadly opposes abortion procedures.
The New York Times reports that ruling makes Mexico the most populous Latin American country to allow abortion.
The decision also comes as Texas, which borders Mexico, makes it harder for its residents to legally get abortions in the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted to allow a Texas law banning most abortions to remain in effect. The state’s law bans abortions at the point of the “first detectable heartbeat,” which is usually around six weeks, when most women don’t know they’re pregnant.
Medical experts say the heart doesn’t begin to form until nine weeks into a pregnancy, and they have decried efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.
At least 13 other states with Republican-dominated legislatures have adopted similar bans, known as “fetal heartbeat" measures, but all have been blocked by the courts.