Supreme Court recognizes medical conscientious objection in Mexico after debate

The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) recognized this Monday that conscientious objection of medical personnel is constitutional, but warned that it is not an “unlimited” right that allows discrimination against women and minorities.

By majority of eight votes, the SCJN recognized as constitutional the right to medical conscientious objection, but clarified that it is only individually and with the obligation for the State to guarantee the protection of the health of patients, including abortion.

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“Conscientious objection does not constitute an absolute or unlimited right that can be invoked in any case and under any modality. It is not a general right to disobey the laws,” said the author of the project, magistrate Luis María Aguilar.

The ruling comes a week after the Supreme Court declared the criminalization of abortion unconstitutional for the first time, a historic precedent that prevents imprisoning women and medical personnel who help them with consent.

Now, the SCJN addressed the unconstitutionality action promoted by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) against the reform of the General Health Law of 2018 that allows conscientious objection in doctors.

The reform does not legalize discrimination or endorse denying an abortion or treatment, but it creates an environment that harms women, the LGBT community and other minorities, as argued by the President of the Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar, who voted against the constitutionality of conscientious objection.

“The proposal lacks a gender and intersectional perspective, as it does not recognize that it is women, pregnant people, people of diverse sexual orientation and people with fewer resources who suffer the most from the impact of the exercise of conscientious objection,” said the minister. .

Despite the resolution, the plenary ministers did not agree to declare the validity of Article 10 Bis of the General Health Law, challenged by the CNDH.

The controversial reform of 2018 allows doctors and health personnel “to exercise conscientious objection and excuse themselves from participating in the provision of services established by this (health) law.”

The legislation only clarifies that “when the life of the patient is put at risk or it is a medical emergency, conscientious objection may not be invoked, otherwise the cause of professional liability will be incurred.”

For this reason, the ministers clashed over the validity of the norm and postponed their discussion for the next session.

Judge Norma Piña argued that the legislation violates the principle of legal certainty because it is not clear or precise, which violates the right to health.

“It has an intense impact on security over the enjoyment of the rights to health and life, and its level of specificity is very poor. The rule has, in my opinion, all the regulatory deficiencies attributed to it by the commission (CNDH)”, Held.

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