It’s just great that as the U.S. is going backwards on women’s rights that Latin America is moving ahead. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be falling behind such beacons of women’s rights as the most Catholic nations in the world?
Latin America continues to push the limits of what is possible. Barely a month after the Colombian ruling, Chile’s constitutional convention—which is drafting a new constitution for the country—passed (by a large majority) an article enshrining sexual and reproductive rights as fundamental and guaranteed by the state. These rights include abortion on demand.
The article establishes that “all people are holders of sexual and reproductive rights [including] the right to decide freely, autonomously and in an informed way about their bodies, the exercise of sexuality, reproduction, pleasure, and contraception.
”In addition, the state will guarantee the exercise of these rights “without discrimination, with a focus on gender, inclusion and cultural relevance,” and “assuring all women and persons with the capacity to gestate, the conditions for pregnancy, for voluntary termination of pregnancy, and for protected and voluntary childbirth and maternity.”
Abortion was banned in Chile in all instances during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and only permitted in 2017 in cases of rape, fetal inviability, and risk to the woman’s life. The public will vote on the new constitution in September; if approved, it will become the first country in the world to give constitutional status to the right to abortion.
Last year, Mexico’s supreme court ruled the criminalization of abortion unconstitutional, and invalidated a federal law that allowed health personnel to refuse to perform terminations on the grounds of “conscientious objection.”
This ruling means no woman can be imprisoned for ending her pregnancy, sets jurisprudence, and puts pressure on states to legalize abortion.
In fact, seven Mexican states have already legalized voluntary abortion up to 12 weeks, five of them in the last 18 months: Mexico City (2007), Oaxaca (2019), Veracruz, Hidalgo, Baja California, Colima (2021), and Sinaloa (2022).
Today, 37 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean’s population of 652 million live in countries where women have won rights to legal abortion or are no longer imprisoned for terminating a pregnancy (including Cuba, Guyana, and Puerto Rico). Five years ago, it was less than 3 percent.
Can we create an underground railroad south?