A pro-life attitude is folowed especially in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica which abortion is prohibited under any circumstances


Bárbara Fraser analyses abortion laws in Latin America in a recent article published in The Lancet (383; 2113-2114, 2014), part of which we have reproduced here.

A short time ago, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced that her government would promote legislation decriminalising abortion in cases of rape, risk to the woman’s life, or in which the fetus is unable to survive outside the womb. This Chilean attitude appears to reflect a growing tendency to decriminalise abortion in Latin America.

The first signal came in 2006, when Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that abortion was legal if the woman’s life or health were in danger, in cases of rape or incest, or if the fetus had serious malformations that would make it impossible for it to survive outside the uterus.

That was followed in 2007 by a new law in Mexico City that legalised abortion under any circumstances in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Mexico’s Supreme Court upheld the law the following year. The measure applies only in Mexico City, however, and there was a backlash in about half the country’s states, which amended their constitutions to define life as beginning at conception. Earlier this year, the state of Guerrero seemed poised to follow Mexico City’s lead with a law that would have allowed abortion on demand within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but the state legislature never debated the measure.

The biggest change came in 2013 in Uruguay, where President José Mujica signed a bill legalising abortion throughout the country. His predecessor, Tabaré Vázquez, a doctor, had vetoed a previous effort. Uruguay’s law allows abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or within the first 14 weeks in cases of rape or incest. Except in cases of rape or incest, a woman must discuss her situation with a doctor and meet with a team of at least three health and social services professionals for information about the law, the abortion process and risks, and alternatives to abortion. After a 5-day waiting period, she can opt for an abortion through the public health system.

In 2012, Argentina’s Supreme Court upheld a decades-old law allowing abortion in cases of rape.

And early this year, Bolivia’s Constitutional Tribunal eliminated a requirement that a woman seeking an abortion after a rape must obtain a judge’s permission.

In Peru, although the health ministry has delayed issuing a protocol on therapeutic abortions in public hospitals, more than a dozen hospitals have drafted their own guidelines.


Groups in favour of abortion think that the attitudes of Uruguay and Chile could lead to similar changes in the legislation in other countries in the region.

A pro-life attitude is followed by other Latin American countries, especially in Central America, such as El Salvador and Nicaragua, in which abortion is prohibited under any circumstances. However, it is Costa Rica that has the strongest opposition to abortion, since even in-vitro fertilisation is prohibited there, as it is considered to terminate the life of embryos or foetuses. (The Lancet 373; 2113-2114, 2014).



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