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Abortion Laws in Latin America: Some Progress, But More to Be Done

Conscience | July 2013

In recent weeks, the world met “Beatriz,” a 22-year-old who could have faced death because of El Salvador’s stringent abortion laws. Only last year, a similar case in the Dominican Republic resulted in the death of a pregnant teenager who was forced to forgo lifesaving chemotherapy because of the country’s rigid laws.

Both cases—and many more that go unreported—speak to the degree that the world still devalues women and girls. They also speak to the consequences of allowing ideology to trump public health, consequences that result in the needless deaths of more than 1,000 women annually in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the hospitalization and injury of at least another million.

Yet even in Latin America and the Caribbean—a region with some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world—there is hope. Building on hard-won victories in Mexico and Colombia, in 2012 we saw progress in Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. These victories are part of a changing political tide in Latin America, yet we must not forget the efforts of countless women in the region who work under the radar to run safe abortion hotlines and provide safe abortions, particularly in countries like Chile and Venezuela.


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