Arizonans’ Best Path to Abortion Access Isn’t Through Mexico

A woman dressed as the Virgin of Guadalupe demonstrates in front of the National Palace in the Zocalo in Mexico City on the occasion of the International Day of Global Action in favour of legal, free and safe abortion in Mexico and Latin America. (Photo by Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By Camaron Stevenson

September 13, 2023

Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in September, a move that puts the country in stark contrast with the US,  where the procedure’s federal protections were removed last year by the nation’s highest court.

But federal decriminalization doesn’t mean traveling to Mexico is a viable option for Arizonans in need of abortion care.

In Arizona, It’s illegal to get an abortion in most cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but in Sonora, the Mexican state that borders Arizona,  the laws—and penalties—for women who get an abortion are even more strict.


Abortion Still Criminalized Locally

While Mexico’s federal laws criminalizing abortion have been ruled unconstitutional, states are still allowed to enforce their own laws. And in Sonora, abortion is completely banned—except in the cases of incest or rape. But even then, It’s only allowed up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The penalties are harsher, too. In Arizona, getting an abortion after 15 weeks is a class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. In Sonora, people caught getting or providing an abortion can be sentenced to up to six years in prison.

And they’re serious: Six women are currently serving time for the crime of seeking abortion-related healthcare, according to NPR’s Fronteras Desk.

Arizonans could travel to Tijuana in Baja California, Mexico, where abortion is legal, but they’d be traveling through California, where it’s also legal. And while that is an option for those in need, a more long-term solution for abortion advocates is to legalize the procedure in Arizona.

One group is trying to do just that. The Arizona for Abortion Act is a proposed ballot initiative that protect access to abortion care in the state constitution.


Constitutional Amendment in the Works

Some of the state’s most dedicated reproductive rights advocates are working to change the state’s law to be more in line with the views of its residents. Advocates from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and several other groups have submitted language for a ballot proposal to the state’s legislative legal counsel that would make access to abortion a constitutionally protected right.

In crafting language, organizers said they focused on a way to make sure the power of making important healthcare decisions relating to abortion was put in the hands of the people seeking them, and not at the whims of politicians.

“When we were determining the language, we stayed away from the ‘weeks discussion,’ and really talked about putting those decisions back into the hands of pregnant people,” Chris Love, senior advisor to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, said on Arizona PBS. “I want to challenge the idea viability is some bright line standard. It isn’t, and we know that each pregnancy is different, so viability is kind of a moving target.”

Once the wording of the proposal is approved, volunteers will need to collect about 400,000 signatures from voters to qualify the proposition for the November 2024 ballot.


  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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