Call for Action – Latin America and the Caribbean

CALL TO ACTION – 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

 SAFE AND LEGAL ABORTION – A QUESTION OF RIGHTS, A QUESTION OF DEMOCRACY

Each year, about 4 million women in Latin America and the Caribbean decide to abort in full consciousness. The laws governing the practice of abortion range from limited authorization to complete prohibition, however, in any of these circumstances, women do exercise the right to decide, and when they decide, they abort.

For most women in the region this act of exercising autonomy over one’s life is being realized in hiding, in unsafe and unhealthy conditions which violate their rights to dignity, freedom and health. The most pressing realities are lived in Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, where abortion is prohibited in all circumstances.  In the countries where abortion is allowed for therapeutic reasons or when the pregnancy is the result of rape, access to abortion is plagued by obstacles and barriers because of public institutions allowing the intrusion of religious sectors and conservatives, who threaten the chance for women to have abortions. The denial of abortion in legislation or health actions is a mechanism of power and control over the bodies, autonomy, sexuality and reproductive decisions of women.

While abortion is subject to the authorization of governors, legislators, judges, doctors and the religious – mostly men, healthy sons of patriarchy – we as women continue to be denied our recognition, respect and the guarantee of our citizenship, we are ignored as complete human beings, capable of making ethical decisions about our bodies and our lives. Democracies stand for values like autonomy, sovereignty and freedom of people, however, these values are denied to women on their own territory of their bodies. Force us to carry a pregnancy to term that we do not want, or are not in a position to take care of, is an act of torture that reinforces our gender subordination.

Part of the continent now boasts of democratic progress made in the last decades, while in many countries democracy is seriously threatened. The shift toward more progressive governments has had very little impact on the lives of women in the area of sexual and reproductive rights. We as women denounce the new Latin American left, it is not as if our rights and freedoms are a substantial part of the principles and political, economic, social, and cultural policies. The good life is secular, otherwise, there is recycled speech that gives priority to the embryo over the rights of women, and these double morals are reproduced and double standards are legitimized – by act or omission – by the priests demanding more births, while their sexual abuse of children goes unpunished.

On this September 28, the International Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion, we demand of our states:

Conditions for having an abortion are legal, free, safe and accessible for all women who decide to abort.

The end of the legal persecution, selective persecution and abuse of women who have had abortions, which mostly affect the poorest women. The imprisonment of women for abortion in our countries is an unspeakable injustice.

Urgent measures to prevent conscientious objection in public hospitals and in other contexts; institutions become an obstacle to exercising rights, or they endanger the health or the lives of women.

Actions to guarantee the safety of women’s rights defenders, including sexual and reproductive rights in all countries where women face persecution, intimidation and threats.

To reaffirm and to promote a secular and pluralistic democracy, avoiding undue interference from religious extremists that affects the realization of legal reforms and/or implementation of public policies to improve the health of women and the exercising of their rights.

We will keep fighting for our states to be secular and for our democracies to respect us as full citizens because SAFE AND LEGAL ABORTION IS A QUESTION OF RIGHTS AND A QUESTION OF DEMOCRACY.

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This Call for Action is part of the regional  September 28  campaign for Decriminalisation of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean

For full original text in Spanish, please click here or consult the campaign’s website