While other parts of the world were witnessing the growth of feminist movements, many South American countries were fighting dictatorships. For this reason, and thanks to the governments’ strong ties with the Catholic Church, many women are still denied the right to an abortion in Latin America, even in cases involving rape or pregnancies that are detrimental to both woman and fetus. Among the nations with the most stringent laws are Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador. In these countries, abortion is illegal in most, if not all, cases. After the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, abortion was legalized but in 2006 it was banned. In Chile, an 11-year-old girl who was raped by her mother’s partner and decided to carry out her pregnancy, was praised by President Sebastián Pinera for her “depth and maturity.” In all of these places, women who were suffering from diseases or whose fetuses had fatal impairments have been denied therapeutic abortions.
Writer Erika L. Sánchez discusses the statistics in an article for The Guardian:
Although most Latin American countries are supposedly secular, the Catholic church continues to insert itself into governments. Abortion is broadly legal in only six countries, which means it’s permitted either without restriction as to reason or on socioeconomic grounds. These countries only account for less than 5% of the region’s women aged 15 to 44. Because of these limitations, many women resort to “traditional practitioners” who use unsafe methods and purchase abortion-inducing drugs from pharmacists and other vendors.
The World Health Organization estimates that in Latin America and the Caribbean a staggering 12% of all maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortions in 2008. In the name of religion, girls as young as 9 years old have been inhumanely denied abortions though their pregnancies were life- threatening. Their family members and doctors have even been threatened with excommunication.
Sánchez highlights the importance of supporting Latin American women in their fight for reproductive rights, and warns that the U.S. may not be far behind our “southern neighbors” now that “states have adopted 43 restrictions on access to abortion, the second-highest number ever at the midyear mark and the same number enacted in all of 2012.”
With regard to the uptick in laws meant to impede abortions in the U.S., Sánchez writes, “I’m terrified by the trend.” Given the horrific results extreme restrictions have had in Latin America and other parts of the world, how can any woman be anything less than dismayed?
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi
World Bank Photo Collection (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)