The decriminalization of abortion in Colombia up to 6 months of pregnancy raised the protest of many citizens, but also the praise of abortion groups that assured that the ruling of the Constitutional Court was part of a trend in Latin American countries.
Colombia is the third Latin American country to partially decriminalize abortion in the last three years, after Argentina in 2020 and Mexico in 2021. The Court’s ruling was given by 5 votes in favor and 4 against, and despite significant opposition of Catholics, of whom around half a million took to the streets of the country to show their rejection of abortion.
The countries that make up Latin America and the Caribbean tend to be predominantly Catholic; however, in recent years some of them have chosen to introduce laws in favor of abortion, a practice that is not only contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church, but also violates the main human right that is life, of which the rest of the constitutional rights arise.
Next, we present the current panorama of abortion laws in the countries of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
In December 2020, the Argentine Senate legalized abortion. The new laws allow abortion for any reason up to 14 weeks, and then only for reasons of rape, or to preserve the life or health of the mother. Note: Pro-life advocates argue that abortion is never medically necessary and that although a woman may sometimes need to undergo a procedure that will lead to the death of the child to alleviate a medical condition, this is not the same as abortion or kill the baby directly and intentionally.
On February 21, 2022, the Constitutional Court of Colombia established that abortion will not be a punishable offense until the 24th week of pregnancy (6 months of gestation), and that after this period abortion can be performed without further gestational limit in case risk to the life of the mother, sexual abuse or fetal deformity.
The judicial sentence asks the Congress and the Government of Colombia to implement a comprehensive public policy that, among other things, eliminates “any obstacle to the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights that are recognized in this sentence.”
The president of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, as well as the country’s Catholic bishops, rejected and criticized the ruling.
Abortion is legal in Cuba up to 12 weeks of pregnancy since 1965 and is provided free of charge by the state health system.
Abortions may be performed to preserve the life and health of the mother, or in cases of rape, or for “economic or social reasons.”
Since 2012, abortion has been legal up to 12 weeks and only after a “reflection period” of five days. There is a law that asks to notify the parents of minors seeking an abortion.
Abortion policy varies by state. In September 2021, the Supreme Court of Justice issued a ruling invalidating the protection of life from conception in the Constitution of the state of Sinaloa.
Those in favor of abortion described the ruling as an effective decriminalization of abortion in Mexico, since they assured that it is binding for other states. Currently, most Mexican states prohibit abortion, except in cases of risk to the health of the mother.
Abortion is only permitted in cases of fetal abnormality, incest, or to preserve the physical or mental health of the mother.
Abortion is permitted only when the life of the mother is at risk. The law penalizes women who abort with up to three years in prison, or only six months if they suffer from a psychiatric problem. However, due to the number of years, the penalty is usually not effective.
Those who perform abortions can be jailed for 1 to 3 years if the woman gives her consent, or up to six years if they perform the abortion without the woman’s consent.
Abortion is illegal for any reason. In 2021, the government changed the Constitution to prevent the future legalization of abortion.
El Salvador and Nicaragua, Suriname, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis
Abortion is illegal for any reason.
Costa Rica, Venezuela, Paraguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Bahamas, grenade, Trinidad and Tobago
Abortion is permitted only to preserve the life and health of the mother.
Abortion is permitted to save the life of the mother, and in cases of fetal abnormalities and rape.
Abortion is allowed up to 8 weeks for any reason; up to 16 weeks in cases of fetal malformation, rape or incest; and from 16 weeks only to preserve the life and health of the mother.
Abortion is permitted to preserve the life and health of the mother, or in cases of rape.
Abortion is not punishable only “when it is the only means to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious and permanent damage to her health.”
Abortion is illegal, except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life and physical or mental health of the mother.
Abortion was decriminalized for cases of rape up to 12 weeks of gestation; but if the woman is a girl under 14, the limit is 14 weeks pregnant. It can also be aborted on the grounds of fetal abnormality or to protect the life of the mother.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia
Abortion is permitted to preserve the life and health of the mother, and in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality.
Abortion is permitted to preserve the mental or physical health of the mother, and in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality.
Translated and adapted by Cynthia Pérez. Originally posted on CNA.