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Across Latin America, abortion restrictions are being loosened

Patrick J. McDonnell and Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

In Mexico, the Supreme Court threw out a statute in the state of Coahuila — which borders Texas — that imposed prison terms of up to three years for women who had abortions and for anyone who assisted them.

The court’s president, Arturo Zaldivar, called the decision a precedent-setting “watershed” for the country.

Until the changes in Argentina and Mexico, only smaller nations — Cuba, Uruguay and Guyana — had decriminalized abortion.

In another potential landmark case, the Colombian Constitutional Court is expected to rule in coming weeks whether to dramatically expand abortion rights.

As in many Latin American countries, the only exceptions there currently are cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal impairments and threats to the health of the mother.

Before the seismic shifts in Argentina and Mexico, change in regional abortion law has generally been incremental.

 

In April, justices in Ecuador decriminalized abortion in all cases of rape. Previously, only rape victims with mental disabilities could qualify.

In Chile, activists inspired by the change in neighboring Argentina hope to utilize an ongoing constitutional-rewrite process to broaden access. Until 2017, Chile largely banned abortion outright. The 2017 legislative change permitted the procedure in cases of rape, unviable fetuses and to save a mother’s life.

The loosening of restrictions in Latin America comes as the debate over abortion in the United States reaches a new level of contentiousness.

This month in a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to void a Texas law that prohibits abortion after six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant — even in cases of rape or incest.

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