Friday, May 29, 2009
Troubling Trend Continues in Latin America Toward Criminalizing All Abortions
The Guttmacher Institute: A Dangerous Trend: Dominican Republic Adopts Draconian Abortion Restriction, by Sharon L. Camp & Dr. Fatima Juarez:
When the Dominican Republic's National Assembly voted in April 2009 to amend its constitution to include a right to life beginning at conception, the country continued a troubling trend among Latin American jurisdictions toward virtually eliminating women's recourse to safe abortion care. Under Dominican law, doctors who perform abortions -- and women who obtain them -- face harsh penalties, including prison sentences.
The constitutional amendment was introduced by President Leonel Fernández and was widely supported by the national assembly. The measure echoes similar changes enacted at the state level in Mexico, where 12 states have recently adopted constitutional amendments declaring that life begins at conception. These amendments -- which essentially aim to preempt any liberalization of existing abortion laws and may even prohibit abortions that had previously been legal, for instance in cases of rape -- appear to be a backlash against the 2007 legalization of first-trimester abortion in Mexico City.
These moves follow the criminalization of abortion under all circumstances by Nicaragua in 2006, and El Salvador in 1998. In 2007, both Human Rights Watch and Ipas issued reports documenting the deaths of women whose lives would have been saved had therapeutic abortion been allowed.
This trend toward draconian abortion restrictions -- banning the procedure outright in places where it was already highly restricted -- ignores strong evidence from Latin America and other parts of the world showing that abortion rates are often as high, or higher, in countries where abortion is highly restricted as in those where it is broadly legal.