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I hold that the right to choose is explicitly established in the Mexican Constitution. Article 4 states in its second paragraph:

“All persons have the right to choose in a free, responsible, and informed manner the number and spacing of their children.”[1]

It is hard to imagine a constitutional text that speaks more explicitly of the right to choose. In contrast with what has happened elsewhere, where courts have read the right to choose into the constitutional text, the Mexican interpreter need only adopt a strictly textualist interpretation to conclude that, in Mexico, women have the right to choose whether to continue or interrupt a pregnancy.

[1] The word “decidir” used in the text of the Constitution is most literally translated as “to decide”. However, when speaking of “the right to choose” in the context of abortion debates, the phrase – taken from English – has been translated into Spanish as “el derecho a decidir”. Women’s rights groups in Mexico advocate “el derecho a decidir”. Given that the clause was inserted in the Constitution during the early 70’s in the wake of international agreements and conferences that were drenched in the language of population planning and women’s rights, I think it is a better translation to use the word “choose” rather than decide when translating the clause into English because when speaking Spanish, we refer to the right to choose as “el derecho a decidir” which coincides literally with the text of the Constitution.


Paper delivered at SELA 2009, Law and Sexuality, in Asunción, Paraguay, as part of the panel on “The Role of the Church.”