MEXICO CITY — Lawmakers in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato have shelved a pair of initiatives to legalize abortion, an issue being introduced for debate in legislatures around the country.

In a virtual session May 25, a joint health and justice committee in Guanajuato voted against the initiatives, including one that would have legalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Four days earlier, lawmakers in the neighboring state of San Luis Potosi overwhelmingly opted against legalizing abortion. Catholic leaders in both states expressed opposition to the initiatives.

People on both sides of the abortion issue rallied supporters online, with the hashtags “It will be law” and “Guanajuato is prolife” trending nationally.

The Archdiocese of Leon, which serves parts of Guanajuato, said May 26 it would file a criminal complaint after graffiti in support of legalization appeared on stone walls of the Our Lady of the Light Cathedral, a church visited by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

“As the Catholic Church, we express respect toward people and, what I ask of them, from those of us in favor of freedom of expression, (is) to be open and that we have a dialogue,” Father Marcos Cortes Muniz, archdiocesan spokesman, said May 26 in a video statement. “Let us stay in our homes and remember that in the face of these attacks we have to respond with an attitude of peace.”

That two of Mexico’s more conservative and traditionally Catholic states would vote against the legalization of abortion failed to surprise most observers, some of whom expressed suspicions that the initiatives were introduced during a pandemic, when protesters would not be in the streets.

But the abortion issue has increasingly been taken up in local legislatures since the MORENA party swept to power nationally and won many local races in late 2018.

Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero urged lawmakers across the country to legalize abortion, saying May 25, “The most important thing for me is to eradicate violence and the criminalization of women, who, for any reason, natural or voluntary, have decided to terminate their pregnancy within the first 12 weeks.

But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has showed little enthusiasm for legalizing abortion, which is allowed in only two of Mexico’s 32 states. Analysts say others in his MORENA party are widely split on the issue, especially outside the national capital.