In a historic decision today, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that Mexico City’s law decriminalizing abortion during the first 12 weeks of gestation is constitutional. In a publicly broadcast proceeding, the court voted 8-to-3 in favor of upholding the Mexico City law, which came into force in 2007. A written decision is expected from the court within days.

“This decision ensures Mexico is observing fundamental human rights law,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Decriminalizing abortion saves women’s lives and respects their equality and autonomy. We applaud the court’s decision, and hope governments around Latin America take notice.”

According to figures from the Federal District, more than 12,000 women have availed themselves of safe and legal abortion services in Mexico City since the law entered into force in April 2007.

In many places in the world where abortion is prohibited or legally restricted, women often seek abortions in clandestine and unsafe conditions, contributing to maternal disability and mortality. Mexico’s Supreme Court decision will help to ensure that women in the nation’s most populated city have access to this basic health care service and do not have to resort to unsafe and potentially life-threatening procedures.