Mexican Supreme Court Overturns Conscientious Objection Law

September 28, 2021

The Mexican Supreme Court on Monday, September 20, 2021 struck down an article of the General Health Law, which broadly provided medical personnel with conscientious objection against participating in certain treatments, such as abortion.

To justify this judgment, the Court explained that “The law did not establish the guidelines and limits necessary for conscientious objection to be exercised without jeopardizing the human rights of other persons, especially the right to health.”

Thus, according to the Court, the law, adopted in 2018, does not allow health professionals to invoke conscientious objection “when the life of the patient is put at risk or it is a medical emergency.”

On September 13, the Supreme Court began by recognizing a recognized right to conscientious objection, adding that this does not restrict the right to health. On September 21, it will discuss clear guidelines for the exercise of conscientious objection and decide whether to urge or order the Union Congress to pass a new law.

Marcial Padilla, director of the prolife platform ConParticipación, commented that “instead of adopting conscientious objection in its entirety,” in its ruling the Supreme Court “puts it in suspense, saying that it does not like how it is formulated, because it prevents the realization of abortion, according to the terms that they wish.”

On September 15, a group of 30 Mexican medical associations defended conscientious objection. Their declaration expressed “rejection of legislative resolutions and their consequential actions from now on that could violate our human rights in the practice of our professions.”

“For healthcare professionals, the long established freedom, with a scientific basis and adherence to the ethical codes that govern good practices, should always be an absolute and unlimited right in its exercise,” they stated.

“The State must guarantee to physicians as persons that they are, the protection of their fundamental rights, in a manner analogous to the protection of the rights that patients deserve due to gender, orientation or sexual preference,” they stressed.

“Today the associations of medical professionals have become a vulnerable group with the effort to restrict their freedom and autonomous decision-making through unilateral criteria, by trying to eliminate their right to conscientious objection,” they warned.

Mexican medical associations have also stressed that conscientious objection is a fundamental human right recognized in various national and international documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The doctor is a professional of science and conscience, who cannot be reduced to a mere instrument of the will of the patient, since like the patient, he is a free and responsible person, with a unique collection of values ​​that regulate his life,” they pointed out.

Finally, they stated that “the federations, associations and boards of medicine as the sole and legitimate representatives of the medical profession, will always continue to be vigilant over the good practice of medicine, so that it is carried out, without external pressure, meeting even the least significant of the requirements of quality and ethics.”