Latin America’s moral dilemma

The region’s long march towards the legalisation of abortion continues.

Abortion has long been a contentious issue in Latin America. Conservative Catholicism has been highly influential, shaping social and cultural attitudes that have permeated the region for decades. Political candidates, keen to shore up support from pro-life evangelical blocs, often espouse strong opposition to the procedure. 

Things could be changing however. Last month, Colombia’s supreme court decriminalised abortion until 24 weeks of pregnancy. Last week, a clinic in Bogotá reported its first free-access abortion, performed on a female migrant from Venezuela.  

A medical professional based in Bogotá explained, “Previously, the procedure had been legal only in cases of rape, foetal deformity or danger to the mother’s health. As attitudes have changed, advocates of abortion have felt increasingly emboldened to take to the streets and challenge the status quo.”

“As attitudes have changed, advocates of abortion have felt increasingly emboldened to take to the streets and challenge the status quo.”

Medical professional, Bogotá 

Indeed, abortion rights advocates in Colombia took an activist approach to bringing abortion not only to public consciousness but to the legislature. They staged marches and engaged social media platforms to pump out their message. In turn, this forced politicians to take a clear position on the issue.  

Colombia’s move follows Argentina which in December of last year, legalised abortion for up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. A few months prior, Mexico’s supreme court ruled that the current criminalisation of abortion is unconstitutional. State legislatures will now have the power to reverse the ban should they wish – Baja California became the first to do so in September. And in April last year, Ecuador decriminalised abortion in all cases of rape.   

Until these changes, it was only a handful of smaller nations including Cuba, Guyana and Uruguay that had decriminalised abortion.  

These developments show how social activism in the region has grown increasingly networked and politically influential. In several countries, the tide is also visible in opinion polls of public sentiment. According to pollster Ipsos, between 2014 and 2021, the number of people who thought abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances rose from 65% to 73% in Chile, 53% to 64% percent in Brazil and 51% to 59% percent in Mexico. 

The medical professional said, “In countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, abortion remains completely banned, even in cases of rape. In Honduras, where nearly 1 in 4 women have been physically or sexually abused by a partner, at least 40% of pregnancies are unplanned or unwanted. Many of those seeking an abortion make extremely dangerous journeys northward to clinics in Mexico or the US in order to do so.”

“In countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, abortion remains completely banned, even in cases of rape.”

Medical professional, Bogotá

Even in jurisdictions where abortion is legal, it is often inaccessible due to doctors and nurses who remain ideologically opposed to the procedure because of social or religious personal views. After legalising the procedure, Colombia will now need to regulate it which, given limited resources and strong local opposition, could be difficult to do in practice.  

In a number of countries across the region including Dominican Republic, it is permitted only to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape. It will take time but as activists feel increasingly emboldened by legislative changes across the region, they will start to sing from the same hymn sheet – if they can do it why not us?  

Important Notice
While the information in this article has been prepared in good faith, no representation, warranty, assurance or undertaking (express or implied) is or will be made, and no responsibility or liability is or will be accepted by Deheza Limited or by its officers, employees or agents in relation to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness or reasonableness of this article, or of any other information (whether written or oral), notice or document supplied or otherwise made available in connection with this article. All and any such responsibility and liability is expressly disclaimed.
This article has been delivered to interested parties for information only. Deheza Limited gives no undertaking to provide the recipient with access to any additional information or to update this article or any additional information, or to correct any inaccuracies in it which may become apparent.

Most recent in Health

Revolutionising pharmaceutical services 

Challenges and opportunities in the Americas. 

LatAm’s fight for a healthier tomorrow

The region's efforts to defeat Hepatitis.

Diabetes spikes

A public health crisis is emerging as diabetes runs rampant across Latin America.

Sleep on it

A recent study claims 3 in 4 Argentinians suffer from some form of sleep disturbance.

Health collapse

Chile’s private health insurance companies face bankruptcy at the hands of government legislation.

Cholera outbreak

PAHO delivers over a million cholera vaccine doses to Haiti as outbreak gathers pace.

Birth dearth

Latin America’s fertility rate continues to fall but what does this mean for the region?

Digital remedies

Digital pharmacies growing rapidly after pandemic induced change in consumer behaviour.

Health costs

Drug prices across Latin America continue to rise, but what can be done about it?

Detecting dyslexia

Dyslexia affects nearly 10% of the population but detection remains a challenge across Latin America.