Although most Latin American countries have draconian bans on abortion, there has been a steady push for changes in the law in recent years. Anti-abortionists are now hoping that, if the U.S. overturns Roe v Wade, those in favor of women's reproductive rights will be stopped in their tracks.
Due to a ruling by the Constitutional Court on February 21, 2022, abortion in Colombia became legal on-demand and without restrictions up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
The move was condemned by the country’s bishops, and Archbishop Luis José Rueda Aparicio of Bogotá, President of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, said that life:
Is a gift from God and we will continue to announce, defend and promote human life, from gestation to natural death.
And Colombia’s President, Iván Duque Márquez, rejected the Constitutional Court’s decision, calling it “atrocious.”
But now that the future of Roe v Wade hangs in the balance, anti-abortionists believe that reversing the ruling:
Would have positive effects in Latin America in favor of life.
Those words were spoken by Jesús Magaña, above, President of the anti-abortion platform United for Life in Colombia.
He said that if a leaked draft is signed by Justice Samuel Alito—a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority—turns out to be the final decision, “it would be a victory for the pro-life movement” and that people would realize that Roe v. Wade:
Was an extremely serious mistake that has cost the lives, in the United States alone, of more than 60 million human beings.
The 1973 decision has a very big effect, especially on the American continents. In Latin America, court rulings in the United States are looked at very carefully, and in the case of Roe v. Wade, the ruling exerted pressure for abortion to be decriminalized in many of our countries and continues to do so to this day.
According to the Catholic News Agency Martha Villafuerte, above, national director of the Ecuador Family association, told ACI Prensa that when the pro-life community in her country learned of the leak, it had:
A very hopeful impact. The news was a wake up call, because while Ecuador bows its head to the abortion agenda, the United States is fighting in a firm, consistent and head-on way. It’s all or nothing.
That’s the strength that we must replicate so our Constitutional Court reverses the decriminalization of abortion. For countries like Colombia or Ecuador, where there have recently been court rulings against life, this news shakes us up into going to the root of the problem.
Abortion in Ecuador, is illegal except when performed in the case of a threat to the life or health of a pregnant woman (when this threat cannot be averted by other means) or when the pregnancy is the result of a sexual crime against a mentally disabled woman and her legal representative has consented. In 2021, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador ruled for further liberalization, decriminalizing abortion in all cases of rape.
We have to give our complete support, crossing borders, praying a lot so that the judges maintain their position and show courage in the face of political pressure.
Marcial Padilla, Director of the Mexican pro-life and pro-family platform ConParticipación, told ACI Prensa that the Supreme Court’s decision is:
Of extreme importance for Mexico and all of Latin America. In Mexico, for example, a 2021 judicial decision is imposing abortion on the country. Therefore, for Mexicans it’s very important to observe what’s happening in the United States. And if the ruling is issued, it would be proof that, with perseverance, it’s possible to reverse a Court’s interpretation.
Padilla also recalled that anti-abortion activists “must be aware that the cause in favor of the dignity and appreciation of human life is not just before birth,” and that it must be recognized that if Roe is overturned, it would be “a very important step in being able to protect the mother and child in all circumstances.”
The Director of the Origin Association in Peru, Giuliana Caccia, told ACI Prensa that if Roe is overturned, it would “pull out the rug” from under “all the laws (and bills) that base their arguments on this judicial precedent, not only in the United States,” but throughout the world.
Abortion ‘not a human right’
Caccia noted that Roe v. Wade strengthened for decades the “narrative that abortion is a human right,” which can be seen by “the strategy that the pro-abortion lobby has implemented throughout these decades, creating supranational and pseudo-scientific jurisprudence to promote its agenda.”
For Caccia, it’s a matter of time before the “truth comes to light.”
The most incredible thing about this case is that Norma McCorvey, the famous “Jane Roe” in the decision, said that the story that gave rise to her case was false: she wasn’t raped and her testimony was manipulated by the activist lawyers who moved forward with the case.
Writing for The Guardian in 2013, Erika L Sánchez warned:
If women in the U.S. aren’t careful, we might find ourselves in a similar situation as our southern neighbours in Latin America and the Caribbean, which still have extreme abortion restrictions. Although most Latin American countries are supposedly secular, the Catholic church continues to insert itself into governments.
Abortion is broadly legal in only six countries, which means it’s permitted either without restriction as to reason or on socioeconomic grounds. These countries only account for less than 5% of the region’s women aged 15 to 44. Because of these limitations, many women resort to ‘traditional practitioners’ who use unsafe methods and purchase abortion-inducing drugs from pharmacists and other vendors.
The World Health Organization estimated that in Latin America and the Caribbean a staggering 12% of all maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortions in 2008.
In the name of religion, girls as young as 9 years old have been inhumanely denied abortions though their pregnancies were life- threatening. Their family members and doctors have even been threatened with excommunication.
According to the Center for Women Policy Studies, the struggle by women to assert their reproductive rights in Latin America stretches back more than a decade, and since then some progress has been made.
In 2011—from Managua to Buenos Aires— thousands marched, held conferences, and met with government officials to call for reform of the region‘s restrictions on abortion.
The Centre said there was reason for optimism, as numerous lawmakers had introduced pro-choice legislation, called for hearings, or pledged to work with groups supporting this cause. At the same time, international bodies ranging from Amnesty International to the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the region‘s leaders to respond to the urgent need for change in the interest of saving women‘s lives.
But the Center warned that, despite the influence of religious fundamentalism and cultural conservatism “that stubbornly obstruct progress on reproductive rights,” there are signs that change is on the horizon.
But if Roe v Wade falls, it could prove a devastating setback to the progress made by pro-choice, bodily autonomy advocates. And that would be a disaster not only for Americans but millions of women throughout Latin America and beyond.