MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s southeastern state of Veracruz will become the fourth state in the predominantly Roman Catholic country to clear away criminal penalties for elective abortion after lawmakers on Tuesday voted to decriminalize the procedure.
The initiative to allow abortions by choice passed in a 25-13 vote with one abstention, Veracruz’s Congress said in a statement.
The state will join Mexico City, Oaxaca and Hidalgo, which decriminalized abortion just late last month, as places where women can now choose to have abortions within 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“We thought this day was so far off that we’re in shock, in the best way possible,” said a tweet from Brujas del Mar, a Veracruz feminist group, while noting that most of Mexico’s states have yet to follow suit.
“Let’s go after the 28 (states) that are left.”
Veracruz is one of just three states in Mexico that does not mandate jail time for women who have unauthorized abortions, according to data from advocacy group GIRE, in a region where traditional anti-abortion attitudes have only recently started to shift.
Even as Argentina legalized the procedure in December, several of more than 20 Latin American nations still ban abortion outright, including El Salvador, which has sentenced some women to up to 40 years in prison.
Veracruz became a focal point in Mexico’s abortion debate last year when the Supreme Court ruled against a proposal to decriminalize abortion in the state, a move condemned by women’s rights activists.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Drazen Jorgic and Richard Pullin)