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In a major step forward for women’s reproductive rights, lawmakers in Mexico City voted on April 24 to legalize abortion in the first trimester, making Mexico City the only jurisdiction in Latin America, other than Cuba, where women can decide to terminate a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks. Leading up to the vote, Human Rights Watch strongly urged policymakers to support the decriminalization measure, and to acknowledge that access to safe abortion is a human rights concern. Even in situations where abortion is legal, however, women in Mexico face enormous difficulties obtaining them in practice. In March 2006, Human Rights Watch documented the myriad obstacles pregnant rape victims face in obtaining abortions, which are decriminalized in most Mexican states in cases of rape. Mexico City’s recent decision should have a wide-ranging influence on the abortion debate. We will continue to press for legal abortion throughout the rest of Mexico and encourage much-needed discussion of the obligation of public health systems in the region to provide safe and legal abortions.

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