Across Latin America, abortion restrictions are being loosened

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

Published in Political News

“The situation in Brazil, unfortunately, appears to be the opposite of that in Mexico,” said Juliana Cesario Alvim, an abortion rights activist and professor of human rights at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. “We have a very conservative federal government that is vocally opposed to reproductive rights and women’s rights.”

Advocates have pinned their hopes on the possibility that President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, can be defeated in elections next year.

In the meantime, he has vowed to prevent any loosening of restrictions and denounced the historic shift in neighboring Argentina.

“I mourn for the lives of Argentine children, now subject to being ripped from the bellies of their mothers with the consent of the State,” he tweeted after the Senate vote in Buenos Aires. “If it depends on me and my government, abortion will never be approved on our soil. We will always fight to protect the life of the innocent.”

Other opponents are also hunkering down.

Lawmakers in Honduras — which suffers from one of the world’s highest rates of sexual violence — passed a constitutional amendment in January designed to block any future effort to legalize abortion, even for rape victims.

Honduras is among at least six nations in the region — the others are El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname — with blanket prohibitions on abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Still, abortion rights advocates have been able to get some jailed women sprung or their cases dismissed, notably in El Salvador.


Sara Rogel, a Salvadoran woman, was released from jail in the Central American nation in June after serving nine years of an initial 30-year sentence for terminating her pregnancy. Her lawyer said she had fallen and suffered a miscarriage and should never have been prosecuted.

In Mexico, where the leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has maintained public neutrality on the abortion question, the Supreme Court decision Tuesday will not change things overnight.

Legal abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are currently only available in Mexico City and the states of Oaxaca, Veracruz and Hidalgo.

Broad implementation of the court ruling could take many months if not longer. The decision voided the law in the state of Coahuila but did not strike down restrictive abortion statutes still on the books in 28 other states.

Activists vowed to go “state to state” in a bid to pressure local lawmakers to comply with the high court ruling, filing lawsuits if necessary.

“We’re going to keep on working so that the penal codes are changed in the states — and then we can talk of a decriminalization of abortion in Mexico,” said Isabel Fulda, an abortion-rights activist in Mexico City. “That is the next step.”

Special correspondents Cecilia Sánchez and Liliana Nieto del Río contributed to this report.

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