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  HOME | Latin America (Click here for more)

Abortion Remains a Controversial Issue Dividing Societies in Latin America

BOGOTA – Abortion regulation is a controversial issue in Latin America and in countries such as Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, remains totally illegal.

A number of those countries agree in theory to abortion in three situations: when a pregnancy is nonviable, there is a risk of death for the woman or for victims of rape.

But the practice can still lead to imprisonment or even death of women in many cases.

EL SALVADOR: The country bans pregnancy termination in all forms, it is an offence punishable by between six months and two years imprisonment.

Teodora Vasquez spent more than a decade in prison for an abortion charge after her newborn baby died in July 2007.

She was also charged with homicide, which meant her sentence was increased to 30 years before being overturned in 2018.

Another woman, Imelda Cortez, was accused of trying to abort a child which was the product of sexual abuse by her stepfather.

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempted abortion and homicide.

HONDURAS: Honduras has a ban on abortion, which was reinforced in May 2017, and is punishable by three to 10 years imprisonment.

Social groups have been campaigning for decriminalization in the three principal areas, a recommendation also made in July 2017 by the UN Human Rights Committee.

ARGENTINA: Doctors performed a caesarean section on an 11-year-old rape victim in the province of Jujuy on Feb. 27.

The girl had requested an abortion after being sexually abused by her grandmother’s partner.

Social groups protested against the decision, arguing that the girl was denied the right to abort under a 1921 law, which states the procedure can be carried out in cases of rape.

BOLIVIA: A 10-year-old girl who had been sexually abused gave birth by caesarean section in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Bolivian law allows abortion in cases of rape or risk to the life of the woman or fetus.

Several organizations unsuccessfully demanded that the procedure be performed on the girl.

PARAGUAY: The country’s law states that termination of a pregnancy is allowed if there is a risk to the woman’s life or aggravation of an illness. Otherwise it is an offence punishable by between two and eight years in prison.

There are many cases of child rape victims undergoing caesarean sections, including an 11-year-old girl in 2015 who was allegedly abused by her stepfather.

Several organizations have called for minors to be given the right to an abortion.

PERU: There are a number of adverts for backstreet abortion centres in the streets of the capital Lima.

Many of them are frequented by minors, since around 13 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 in the country are pregnant, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The law only allows termination when the life of the woman is in danger.

BRAZIL: The country’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has brought a series of changes to social policies and initiatives.

Damares Alves, evangelical pastor and Minister of Human Rights, has proposed a project which would give protection to fetuses and completely penalize abortion.

ECUADOR: A parliamentary debate has been taking place in the country since January to decriminalize abortion by rape, incest or insemination without consent.

The law currently allows abortion only if there is a danger to the life of a woman or rape of a woman with a mental disability.

Any other reason is penalized with sentences of up to three years imprisonment.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The case of 16-year-old Rosaura Almonte in 2012 has sparked controversy in the country.

She was diagnosed with leukemia and also discovered a seven-week pregnancy.

Doctors did not start chemotherapy because they gave preference to the pregnancy and she died on Aug. 17 the same year.

The issue has caused a political clash in the country, where the executive has twice vetoed a penal code approved by congress because criminalization of abortion is maintained.

VENEZUELA: Termination of pregnancy is only allowed if there is a certain risk to the life of a woman. Otherwise it is punishable by six months to two years in prison.

Campaigns by feminist groups to depenalize abortion have not succeeded.


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