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Bolivians Call for Abortion To Be Decriminalized

  • Bolivian Indigenous women.

    Bolivian Indigenous women. | Photo: REUTERS/David Mercado

Published 28 September 2015

There are 185 illegal abortions in Bolivia every day. Campaigners want abortion taken off the penal code on International Day of Action for the Decriminalization of Abortion.

Pro-choice campaigners hit the streets of La Paz from early morning to spread their message on abortion during the chaotic rush hour.

Campaigners are raising the issue as part of the 28th of September campaign – a global day of action to decriminalize abortion around the world.

They are small in number but determined to be heard.

Shouting through noisy megaphones they had some hard-hitting facts for commuters.

‘’We want abortion to be taken off the penal code’’ says Patricia Brunez, from the 28th of September Campaign. Women seeking an abortion here need to have free access to health insurance and other aftercare services but that just doesn’t happen’’ Brunez told teleSUR English.

An estimated 185 illegal abortions happen in Bolivia every day.

This is the second highest rate in Latin America – with Haiti taking the top spot.

‘’These women are probably poor women, Indigenous women, peasant women who can not pay for a safe abortion in other clinics’’ according to Monica Novillo, a campaigner, who has spoken to many of the women who have had illegal abortions. It’s a question of social justice for these women’’ she says.

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According to Bolivian law, women are only allowed an abortion only if they have been raped or the foetus poses a risk to the life of the mother.

‘’For Bolivian women one of the most serious issues they’re facing is sexual and domestic violence,’’ says Monica Baya, a human rights lawyer. ’’We’ve seen an increase in sexual abuse and the consequences of this is becoming pregnant,’’ Baya says.

Seven out of every ten women in Bolivia have suffered sexual abuse at least once in their lives. If they fall pregnant and go to an illegal clinic the risks are huge. Maternal deaths because of illegal abortions is the third highest cause of death for Bolivian women.

Between 50,000 and 60,000 illegal abortions are carried out in clinics in Bolivia every year.

Every day two Bolivian women die because of an illegal abortion, the campaign says.

As campaigners handed out their leaflets most people were more interested in having their lunch than listening to the facts.

They want the government to take action immediately and decriminalise abortion. This is no easy task in a country with a strong Catholic tradition where the majority are staunchly against abortion.

Activists admit the high numbers of fatalities because of illegal abortions is not enough to persuade the public opinion or the government.

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