September 28: No more losses because of unsafe abortion! Demand immediate decriminalization!


Written by Women International Secretariat of IWL-FI
Saturday, 26 September 2015 18:56

The Day for Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean will be held on next September 28, as it has been done every year since 1990, with rallies and demonstrations in the sub-continent.
It is a day of struggle to condemn the states, the governments, the Catholic and others Churches for being responsible for the avoidable death of thousands of young and working women due to unsafe and clandestine abortions. It is a day of struggle to stress they are accomplices of the luxurious private clinics where the upper class pays fortunes for safe abortions. They are also responsible for the violence against thousands of women obliged to continue pregnancies resulting from rapes and against millions forced to be mothers in situations of brutal poverty and subjugation.
Poverty and violence
The World Health Organization states that 42 million abortions per year for non-desired pregnancies take place worldwide. 20 million of them are unsafe. 68,000 women die per year because of unsafe abortions. Between 2 and 7 million suffer severe consequences. Most unsafe abortions (98%) take place in countries where abortion is illegal or penalized and/or where health resources or contraceptives are unavailable. [1]
Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be the most unequal region in the world. 90% of abortions are unsafe and teenage pregnancies continue to grow. Abortion is only legal in the Mexico city (Federal District) and four countries: Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay. In the rest, being poor and having to abort is paid with either life or jail. Seven out of nine countries that criminalize abortion under any circumstance are located in the region: El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname.
But even in the countries where there are more or less restrictive laws, the lack of regulation of non-punishable abortions puts at stake its implementation. 86% of the poorest women in A. L. and the Caribbean live under highly restrictive laws.
In Argentina, for example, although a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2012 clarified the exceptions to the criminalization of abortion and its requirements, many provinces still do not apply them. In Peru, 90 years after the decriminalization of therapeutic abortion, a protocol to regulate it was approved only in July 2014, but it does not include abortion for rape or for risks to the psychological health of women. In Colombia, where there is also the right to therapeutic abortion, a huge number of doctors argue conscientious objection for not practicing; in addition, misinformation and the slack attitude of the state make 98% of abortions to remain clandestine.
At the same time, Latin America and the Caribbean is the second region with more teenage pregnancies according to the last UNICEF report. Currently, one out of three young women under age 20 gives birth. These pregnancies are linked to the lack of information and opportunities, marginalization and sexual violence. For mothers aged 15 to 19, maternal mortality ranks as one of the major causes of death. This risk doubles in pregnancies before the age of 15. [2]
“Progressive” and “Socialist” Governments: what side are they on?
In the early XXI Century, great revolutionary processes took place in Latin America. As a response to them or to avoid new uprisings, the governments looked for measures to alleviate the misery of the peoples. However, the demagogic policies, in some cases, and the absence of adequate state budgets become critical regarding women’s rights; particularly when it comes to a woman to decide when to become a mother.
For Rafael Correa [President of Ecuador], it was not enough to repeat he would never decriminalize abortion. In 2014, he annulled his own ENIPLA (National Intersectional Strategy for Family Planning and Teenage Pregnancy Prevention), whose main initiative was the free distribution of contraceptives among young people, which he considered an “absolute mistake” and part of a “gay, pro-abortion agenda.”
In 2013, Evo Morales [President of Bolivia] declared, “abortion is a felony”. The Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal of Bolivia ratified the illegality of abortion in 2014. In the harmed Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro continues the path drawn by Hugo Chávez during his presidential campaign in 2012: “Call me conservative, but I do not agree with abortion to stop a birth.” The three female presidents, Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet [3] think the same way. In Chile, they are just discussing the legality of therapeutic abortion; its decriminalization is only approved in the case of rape.
It may be surprising that governments that define themselves to be “progressive” or even “socialists” agree with society’s most conservative sectors and the Church. But, in practice, they all share the employer’s and imperialism’s interest in maintaining women’s subjugation for, while they are half of the working class, their oppression is at the service of better exploiting the whole proletariat.
Pope Francis and the forgiveness of the sins
The Pope established 2016 as the year of the Jubilee of Mercy when all priests worldwide can absolve the believers who regret committing the sin of abortion. This measure costs nothing. It alleviates the guilt many women feel because of their faith, but it does not modify their terrible material living conditions.
The papal authorization was celebrated by governments and the media. However, it doesn’t mean a change of position of the Church. Francisco reacts to the great social pressure for decriminalization, which exists in many countries where abortion is not legal, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean. Also to situations where the right-wing bourgeoisie and the Church were defeated by mobilizations when they tried to push back the legalization, as happened in the Spanish State with Gallardón Act and in Uruguay.
To struggle like in Uruguay and in the Spanish State
There were great triumphs in both countries because of the struggle of political organizations, trade unions, students, feminist groups and the whole population. This shows the need for a large social mobilization in order to win.
Poor women who carry out illegal abortions die at the Hospital’s door because it is too late when they arrive there. They are afraid of going to prison. Women who suffered rapes and got pregnant, those who do not have access to sexual education or contraceptives, and outsourced workers who would be fired if they got pregnant do not need to be forgiven. They need sex education for prevention, contraceptives to prevent abortion and the right to legal, safe and free abortion to stay alive.
The IWL-FI states this is not and cannot be a matter assumed only by women, contrary to what feminist and other left-wing sectors defend. With women at the vanguard, every trade union, students organizations, women’s, human rights, social, and neighborhood groups must discuss this to demand that trade union federations and students organizations include the right to abortion among their demands. And the demand from the state to guarantee the rights for women who want to be mothers: wage, jobs and decent housing, kindergartens and nursery schools, access to health and education.
In times when the world crisis harshly attacks us, to fight all the violence against women must be part of the struggle against the austerity plans. There can be no answer to the workers and people’s demands without fighting for the non-payment of the foreign debt in each country, so that the resources available are invested in the needs of the workers and the poorest.
It is time to fight for a second and definitive independence, for proletarian governments towards socialism. The most advanced capitalist states have not provided women, until now, what the socialist society will.
[1] – Data from the Guttmacher Institute, “Hechos sobre el aborto en AL y el Caribe”, [Facts on Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean], January 2012.
[2] – Unicef, “Vivencias y relatos sobre el embarazo en adolescentes: una aproximación a los factores culturales, sociales y emocionales a partir de un estudio en seis países de la región”, [Experiences and accounts of pregnancy among adolescents: an approximation towards the cultural, social and emotional factors influencing teenage pregnancy, through a study in six countries of the region], page 12,  02/15/ 2015.
[3] – Presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Chile respectively.

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