When conceiving, women aren’t always fortunate enough to enjoy favourable economic or health conditions, and in many countries don’t even have the right to decide whether to continue the pregnancy.
Betty Hernández Quintana
Two arguments tend to arise from the abortion question in the global context; pro-choice (with emphasis on the right of the woman to decide to terminate the pregnancy) and pro-life (referring to those who defend the right of the embryo or foetus to be born).
Laws on the interruption of pregnancy vary from state to state, however abortion still remains forbidden under all circumstances in seven countries worldwide: the Vatican, Malta, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic.
Therapeutic abortion is justified when there is a medical or legal motive which vary according to nation, but under certain conditions, with consideration of the following criteria: the risk placed on the mother’s life, hybrid viability, or when the pregnancy is the result of a sexual offence (rape) or the application of assisted reproduction techniques without the mother’s consent.
In Latin America, these kinds of laws range from total freedom of decision to the most extreme restrictions, as three of the seven countries in which abortion is totally forbidden are found in this geographical region.
In El Salvador’s case, the nation’s laws punish women who abort with up to forty years in prison, even when they do so involuntarily, due to complications in the pregnancy.
In this adverse context, women who are denied the full right to make decisions regarding their bodies end up having to abort illegally, a process which endangers their health, denounced the Chilean daily newspaper, La Izquierda.
As a result abortions at home or through self-induced methods, with extremely high possibilities of critical complications developing later, extending to death in some cases, claimed said source.
Other governments are less rigid in this sense, although they maintain strict restrictions on the pregnancy’s development, as is the case in Paraguay, Brazil and Chile.
The Paraguayan legislation only authorises abortion when the mother’s life is in serious danger, and it remains illegal in cases of sexual assault or hybrid unviability, reported the source.
Consequently, more then 600 girls under 14 years old give birth each year in this country, and as a result must stop studying prematurely, dedicating themselves to supporting their families, taking up unstable and badly paid jobs, according to the source.
On the other hand, last March Chile proposed a law to legalise the practice of abortion in three circumstances: rape, if the mother’s life is at risk or hybrid unviability, added La Izquierda.
If the law is finalised by Congress before Michelle Bachelet’s administration is finalised in 2008, the country will prevent the occurrence of 5% of the 70,000 illegal abortions which take place in unsafe conditions each year, declared the report.
According to the World Health Organisation (WOH) approximately 12% of the total of deaths through giving birth in the region are the consequence of badly-executed abortions, without taking into account the hundreds of thousands of abortions which culminate in infection, the perforation of organs and other internal complications.
The organisation calculates that 20 million interruptions of pregnancies occur annually and that over the same time period 46 million women resort to this option to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
In such circumstances the risk of death from unsafe abortion in developed countries is 370 per 100,000 cases, and particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean this problem causes 17% of deaths in pregnancy.
According to reports from the United Nations, in the region there are close to 4.4 million abortions each year and more than 90% of them are practised in unsafe conditions. 70% of pregnancies which go through illegal operations happen to impoverished pregnant women under 30 years old, in states where the practice is punishable under the law, and as a result are denied essential health care, the entity denounced.
These women are maintained in a vicious circle of vulnerability as a consequence of their socioeconomic background, resulting in a lack of education, unemployment and poverty.
Furthermore, physical violence and sexual crime is another problem which harms women in such countries.
In the region more than half of pregnancies are unwanted due to being the product of these assaults and the lack of access to modern forms of contraception, according to statistics from various non-governmental organisations.
In 2014, 1,613 abortions were registered in Brazil, 94% of which due to rape, however some pro-choice activists allege that each year almost a million illegal interruptions of pregnancies occur. (PL)
(Translated by: Rosie Cordy)