We are pleased to present this report on women’s reproductive rights in Latin America. In recent decades, women throughout the region have made tremendous strides towards securing equal rights in almost every sphere. Yet a number of challenges remain. Lack of access to reproductive health services, comprehensive sexuality education, and contraception prevent women from fully enjoying their rights as citizens. Latin American countries have some of the most restrictive reproductive health laws and policies in the world, particularly with regard to abortion. In part this stems from not recognizing reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right. However, imposing legal restrictions on abortion does not reduce the likelihood that women will seek this reproductive health service. Instead, harsh laws compel women to risk their lives and health by seeking out unsafe abortions. In fact, Latin America has the highest proportional number of maternal deaths as a result of unsafe abortions in the world. An estimated 2,000 Latin American women die every year from unsafe abortions. To be sure, there has been increased pressure to liberalize abortion laws and align them with international human rights obligations. Still, some countries in the region have taken steps to criminalize abortion under all circumstances. Against this backdrop, on June 10, 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Inter-American Dialogue organized a symposium to focus the Washington policy community’s attention on the state of reproductive rights in Latin America. We wanted to bring to light both the troubling consequences of restrictive abortion laws and policies for the lives and human rights of Latin American women as well as the forces promoting more progressive laws in some countries. We also sought to explore the implications of this critical issue for democracy, social equity, and access to justice. The event featured discussion comparing abortion laws in four different countries, from the most restrictive to the most liberal—El Salvador, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay. Chilean Congressman Vlado Mirosevic Verdugo and Morena Herrera, president of the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion in El Salvador, discussed the health and human rights consequences of total abortion bans in their respective countries. Mexican political scientist Denise Dresser and Uruguayan vice Minister of Health ii Leonel Briozzo, a physician, assessed the effects of abortion liberalization on democracy and social equity in their countries. Harvard professor Jocelyn Viterna discussed how abortion bans not only negatively affect reproductive health, but also how they criminalize women seeking essential reproductive care. Advisor for Catholics for the Right to Decide’s Julian Cruzalta of Mexico, Chilean family law and international human rights attorney Macarena Sáez of American University’s Washington College of Law, and O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law Director Oscar Cabrera closed the symposium by analyzing the implications of liberalizing or tightening abortion bans on women’s civil rights and health. We very much hope this report, which contains rich analysis and thoughtful recommendations offered by symposium panelists and participants, will improve understanding of the crucial connections among reproductive rights, democracy, and citizenship in Latin America. We regard this report as part of a continuing effort to make sure the region’s governments adhere to international norms and standards as they relate to women’s rights.
Nancy Northup President & CEO Center for Reproductive Rights
Michael Shifter President Inter-American Dialogue
Read the whole report at: http://www.sxpolitics.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/iad9794-repro-rights_web.pdf