Latin America’s fight to legalise abortion: the key battlegrounds

Latin America's fight to legalise abortion: the key battlegrounds
After Argentina rejected a bill to allow abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, hopes of reform now rest elsewhere

Annie Kelly
Thu 9 Aug 2018

An estimated 6.5 million abortions take place across Latin America each year. Three-quarters of these procedures are unlawful, often performed in unsafe illegal clinics or at home.

Of 33 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, only Cuba, Uruguay and Guyana permit elective abortions. Women also have the right to choose in Mexico City. Elsewhere, however, the right to an abortion is severely restricted, with terminations often permitted in cases of rape, or if the pregnancy will endanger the life of the mother. Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname all have a complete ban on abortion.


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Abortion rates go down when countries make it legal: report

Abortion rates go down when countries make it legal: report
Countries with stricter abortion laws have higher abortion rates

by Maggie Fox

Abortion rates have fallen over the past 25 years, even as more countries have made the procedure legal and easier to get, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Countries with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest rates of abortion, the study by the Guttmacher Institute found. Easier access to birth control drives down abortion rates, the report also finds.


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Latin America lagging behind on women’s rights

Latin America lagging behind on women’s rights

By Hugo Sánchez and Julia R. Arévalo | translated by Freya Kirk
Feb 19, 2018

Imprisoned for having an abortion, forced to keep a child born out of rape, pushed to commit suicide: women still pay a heavy price in Latin America, where several countries’ legislation greatly restricts abortion. EURACTIV’s partner Euroefe reports.

Women’s rights in South America were the main issue during a conference before the 10th Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EUROLAT), held last September in El Salvador. El Salvador is now ranked as the most violent country in the world, mainly due to gang activities.


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Brazilian who pushed abortion debate ends pregnancy abroad

Brazilian who pushed abortion debate ends pregnancy abroad

By renata brito and sarah dilorenzo, associated press
SAO PAULO — Dec 11, 2017

A woman believed to be the first in Brazil to ask the state for permission to end a pregnancy that did not result from a rape or involve medical issues has had an abortion — in Colombia.

With one request denied by the Supreme Court and fearing that another would languish in the justice system, Rebeca Mendes told The Associated Press on Monday that she decided to have the procedure done abroad so as not to be punished in Brazil.

The decision ends her involvement in a case that garnered national headlines in Latin America's most populous nation and sought to push the limits on restrictive abortion laws.

Continued at source:

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INVIMA approves mifepristone for abortion in Colombia

INVIMA approves mifepristone for abortion in Colombia
by Safe Abortion
March 31, 2017

On 3 March 2017,  it was announced that Colombia’s Instituto Nacional de Vigilancia de Medicamentos y Alimentos (National Food and Drug Surveillance Institute, INVIMA) had approved the registration of mifepristone in Colombia for use in combination with misoprostol for induced abortion.

According to the Gynuity Health Projects website, mifepristone has been available (up to June 2016) only in Guyana and Uruguay in South America.

Profamilia, Colombia’s national family planning organisation, hope to begin providing the combination method in the second quarter of this year according to Marta Royo, Profamilia’s Executive Director.

Royo reports that in March 2012 Profamilia started all the procedures required in order to introduce mifepristone in Colombia: “It took five years and tons of paperwork, meetings and lobbying, she said, but we made it!!!! We are thrilled at INVIMA´s granting of approval but to be honest, also a little bit scared…. I won’t truly believed it until I see Mifepristona in Profamilia´s clinics and of course other clinics as well.”

SOURCES: El Espectador, 3 March 2017 ; E-mail from Marta Royo, 22 March 2017

Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion:

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Clinics for World’s Vulnerable Brace for Trump’s Anti-Abortion Cuts

Clinics for World’s Vulnerable Brace for Trump’s Anti-Abortion Cuts

JAN. 26, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal — The clinic, tucked discreetly inside the student health center on the University of Dakar campus, prescribes birth control pills, hands out condoms and answers questions about sex that young women are nervous about asking in this conservative Muslim country.

The clinic performs no abortions, nor does it discuss the procedure or give advice on where to get one. Senegal, by and large, outlaws abortion. But for other health services like getting contraceptives, said Anne Lancelot, the Sahel director at the organization that runs the clinic, “there is a very high demand.”

Now, under a Reagan-era policy revived by President Trump, the clinic may no longer be able to count on aid money from the United States Agency for International Development, part of a ban on providing abortion counseling overseas that could curtail a broad range of health services, including those that go well beyond abortion.

[continued at link]
Source, New York Times:

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MILES (Movement for Sexual and Reproductive Rights) denounces the detention of a Chilean woman accused of having an abortion

by Safe Abortion, Nov 25, 2016

The Movement for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (MILES) today denounced the fact that a Colombian woman of 32 years of age was detained at Antofagasta by the Sexual Crimes Brigade of the IDPS for allegedly aborting a fetus of 18 weeks. She was said to have taken three doses of misoprostol and then gone to the Medical Center North (CAN), where she was arrested and detained by the Office of the Prosecutor.

“This situation is inhumane. Women are treated like criminals because the State has been unable to regulate and facilitate the termination of pregnancy, even for women at risk of losing their lives by the absence of this care,” said MILES. “Instead of being helped, the woman was put in the pillory in public, without any concern about the deep psychological and physical unease that she must be feeling. This is a flagrant violation of her human rights.”

“The government and legislators must show the decency to adopt the pending abortion law reform, because every day that passes without this law, there are egregious abuses of women’s health and lives. The State must respond to the demands and needs of the people, the majority of whom endorse the abortion bill, as all the opinion polls show.”

SOURCE: Miles por los derechose sexuales y reproductivos, 18 November 2016 ; PHOTO

Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

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Scientists are bewildered by Zika’s path across Latin America

By Dom Phillips and Nick Miroff October 25 at 3:24 PM, Washington Post

RIO DE JANEIRO — Nearly nine months after Zika was declared a global health emergency, the virus has infected at least 650,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean, including tens of thousands of expectant mothers.

But to the great bewilderment of scientists, the epidemic has not produced the wave of fetal deformities so widely feared when the images of misshapen infants first emerged from Brazil.

[continued at link]
Source: Washington Post

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Improper Use of Conscientious Objection in Bogotá, Colombia, Presents a Barrier to Safe, Legal Abortion Care

New Study Identifies Avenues for Intervention

August 10, 2016

Health care providers who invoke conscientious objection to providing or participating in abortion care in Bogotá, Colombia, can be categorized along a spectrum of objection—extreme, moderate and partial—finds a new study published in International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The study, “‘The Fetus Is My Patient, Too’: Attitudes Toward Abortion and Referral Among Physician Conscientious Objectors in Bogotá, Colombia,” by Lauren Fink of Emory University, et al., seeks to understand conscientious objection from the perspective of objectors themselves in order to help identify potential interventions to ease the burden of conscientious objection as a barrier to care.

When the Colombian Constitutional Court partially decriminalized abortion in 2006, the Court established a right to abortion in three circumstances: when the life or health (including mental well-being) of the mother is at risk; when a fetal anomaly is incompatible with life; and when the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or forced insemination. The Court also outlined guidelines for health care providers who wish to invoke conscientious objection. Individuals can object, but institutions cannot; objecting physicians have a duty to refer patients to another provider; and conscientious objection “may not involve disregard for the rights of women.” Nevertheless, improperly exercised conscientious objection is not uncommon in Colombia, leading many women to seek clandestine abortions, which are often unsafe. The authors conducted in-depth interviews with 13 key informants and 15 Colombian physicians who self-identified as conscientious objectors to better understand how conscientious objection is exercised.

On the basis of these interviews, the study finds that objection falls along a spectrum; it identifies three types of objectors, according to a set of characteristics shared among them. Extreme objectors believe it is their medical, ethical and religious duty to refuse to perform abortions and to prevent their patients from having an abortion. To that end, they try to change their patients’ minds, provide misleading legal and medical information, and refuse to refer their patients.

Moderate objectors tend to be religious, but are more tolerant of other perspectives; they do not seek to actively stop their patients from having abortions and do provide referrals. They also tend to be strong advocates for birth control, including emergency contraception, which they view as preventing abortions. They are generally informed by medical ethics and a commitment to “protect life,” including that of the fetus.

Partial objectors fall into two subcategories: They object either on the basis of gestational age or on a case-by-case basis. Those whose objection is based on gestational age are not motivated by religion and do not consider themselves opponents of abortion. Many are concerned about performing abortions on potentially viable fetuses, although some refuse to perform abortions even early in gestation, citing other concerns. More research is needed on the motivations of case-by-case objectors; one physician interview and comments by key informants suggest that this kind of partial objection is not unusual.

The researchers urge that in order to develop effective interventions to reduce improper use of conscientious objection as a barrier to safe and legal abortion, objectors should not be treated as a homogenous group. Instead, interventions should be tailored to target different types of objectors. For example, dialogues on the value of referral between moderate and extreme objectors who share religious beliefs could help some extreme objectors move toward offering referrals so that their patients do not seek clandestine—and potentially unsafe—abortions. The authors also recommend that continuing medical education and medical school curricula be revised to broaden the bioethical perspective on abortion and reflect the decriminalization of abortion. Furthermore, all physicians, regardless of their objector status, would benefit from values clarification exercises and training about the health exception in the abortion law. Finally, the researchers suggest that the limited nature of the decriminalization of abortion in Colombia allows conscientious objectors to act as gatekeepers and mislead women about their rights. Expanding the country’s abortion law to allow abortion on request, they say, would maintain objectors’ rights while reducing their ability to act as barriers to safe, legal abortion care.

“‘The Fetus Is My Patient, Too’: Attitudes Toward Abortion and Referral Among Physician Conscientious Objectors in Bogotá, Colombia,” by Lauren Fink et al., appears in International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health and is currently available online.

Source: Guttmacher Institute

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