Because the U.S. is willing to restrict abortion, other countries are facilitating access


As women in the United States find themselves on the brink of losing their constitutional right to abortion, courts in many other parts of the world are moving in the opposite direction.

This includes a number of traditionally conservative societies – for example, recently in Colombia, where the Constitutional Court in February legalized the procedure until the 24th week of pregnancy, which is part of a broader trend in some parts of Latin America where Catholicism is highly Catholic. .

It is unclear what impact the draft opinion will have outside the United States, which suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn the landmark Rowe v. Wade ruling in 1973.

But for female activists who for years have waged devastating campaigns demanding open access to abortion, often looking to the United States as a model, it is an unpleasant sign and reminder that hard-earned successes can remain unchanged.

“This is a terrible precedent for the coming years for the region and the world,” said Colombian Catalina Martinez Coral, director of Latin America and the Caribbean at the New York Center for Reproductive Rights, which was among the groups considering the abortion case. in the Supreme Court of Colombia.

The February ordinance established for women the broad right to have an abortion within a 24-week period, whereas previously they could only do so in certain cases, such as if the fetus had malformations or the pregnancy occurred as a result of rape. In such special circumstances, abortion is still allowed after this period.

The decision did not live up to the defenders’ hopes for full decriminalization, but Martinez Coral said Colombia remained “the most progressive legal framework in Latin America.”

Similarly, last year the Mexican Supreme Court declared the punishment for abortion unconstitutional. As the country’s highest court, its ruling prohibits all jurisdictions from prosecuting a woman for miscarriage.

Most of Mexico’s 32 states still have laws banning abortion, but NGOs that have long sought decriminalization are pushing state legislatures to reform them. Abortion has already been available in Mexico City and some states.

In the south of Argentina, lawmakers in late 2020 passed a bill that legalizes abortion until the 14th week and then in circumstances similar to those described in the Colombian decision.

It is also widely available in Cuba and Uruguay.

But expanding access to abortion has not spread across Latin America, and many countries limit it to certain circumstances – such as Brazil, the region’s most populous country, where it is only allowed in cases of rape, risk to life and certified congenital anencephaly defects. Former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for a new term in October, recently said he views the legalization of abortion as a health issue, which has drawn criticism in a country where few approve the procedure.

Elsewhere, such as Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, there are complete bans without exception. The latter courts have sentenced women to lengthy prison terms for aggravated murder, even if prosecutors suspect the miscarriage was in fact an abortion.

Many African countries also maintain a total ban, but in October 2021, Benin legalized abortion in most cases for up to 12 weeks. This has greatly increased safe access to the procedure after the health minister reported that nearly 200 women die each year from complications from clandestine abortions. Previously, abortion was allowed in cases of rape or incest; risk to a woman’s life; or severe malformations of the fetus.

Most European countries have legalized abortion, including predominantly Catholic ones. Ireland did so in 2018 and then little San Marino in a referendum for voters last fall. It remains illegal in Andorra, Malta and the Vatican, while Poland tightened abortion laws last year.

It has also been widely available in Israel since 1978 and is relatively inconsistent, allowed by law until the 24th week with the approval of hospital “termination committees” consisting of health professionals, including at least one woman.

Laws and interpretations in the Muslim world are different.

In Tunisia, abortion has been legal for decades up to 12 weeks, but in Iran it was banned after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Last year, the head of the Higher Institute of Islamic Clergy in Cairo Al-Azhar said that abortion is not a solution even in cases where the child may be seriously ill or disabled.

In Japan, abortion is only allowed for economic and health reasons and requires the consent of partners, making Japan one of the few countries in the world to do so. Victims of sexual violence are excluded from the requirement.

Although there has been a growing call for women to have the right to make their own decisions, the Japanese government, led by the ultra-conservative Liberal Democratic Party, has long focused on women’s traditional gender roles in childbirth.

Japan has not approved abortion pills, although an application for them from a British company is under consideration at the Ministry of Health.

Abortion has been legal in India since 1971. Women can terminate a pregnancy for up to 20 weeks, but only on the advice of a doctor. Under the changes in 2021, a woman may also request an abortion for up to 24 weeks under certain circumstances, such as rape or incest, although this requires the approval of two doctors.

China is moving to limit abortion, but that’s because it has one of the highest abortion rates in the world.

Last September, China’s cabinet, known as the Council of State, issued new national guidelines requiring hospitals to “cut down on abortions that are not medically necessary.” In February, the Chinese Family Planning Association announced it would launch a campaign to reduce teen abortions.

If the final decision of the US Supreme Court is made in late June or early July, the world will be watching.

“Although steps to decriminalize and legalize abortion in places such as Argentina, Ireland, Mexico and Colombia have been a great victory for the world community over the past few years,” said Agnes Calamar, secretary general of Amnesty International. The statement “shows grim signs that the United States is unaware of the progress the rest of the world is making in protecting sexual and reproductive rights.”

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