September 28 marks the Day of Global Action for Legal and Safe Abortion, a growing demand among women in Latin America and the Caribbean, where restrictive anti-abortion laws place the lives of countless women at risk.
On Friday, feminist and women's rights movements across the region have organized protests to demand their governments recognize women’s reproductive rights and remove laws barring them from safely terminating unwanted pregnancies. Protests are planned in Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela, El Salvador, Brazil, and other countries in the region under the banner “Deciding is a right, not a crime.”
This will be the second time women in the region have mobilized to demand safe abortions in 2018. On March 8, Women’s Day, women in Latin America and the Caribbean protested against gender-based violence to demand policies to end the high rates of femicides and the legalization of abortion.
On September 28, initially known as the Day for the Right to Abortion for Latin American and Caribbean Women, was first declared in 1990 during the fifth regional Feminist Meeting in San Bernardo, Argentina. It came from the recognition that unsafe abortions in illegal clinics had become one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in the region.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 97 percent of women of childbearing age in Latin America and the Caribbean live in countries where abortion is restricted or banned altogether. Harsh laws that penalize abortion have not resulted in fewer procedures, but have caused higher risks to women's lives. An estimated 2,000 women die in Latin America every year due to unsafe abortions.
A report by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that Latin America has the highest abortion rate, with 44 in every 1,000 women undergoing the procedure. Globally as of 2010–2014, an estimated 36 abortions occur each year per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in developing regions, compared with 27 in developed regions. In all developing regions combined (except Eastern Asia), an estimated 6.9 million women are treated annually for complications related to abortions, many are unable to receive timely care or treatment.
In six countries, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Suriname abortions are illegal without exception, regardless of whether the pregnancy is the outcome of rape or if it poses medical risks for the woman.
Only in Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay women can access abortions without restrictions. In the remaining 25 countries, abortions are only legal if the woman's life and health may be threatened.