Abortion is not a privilege, it’s a fundamental right. This idea has been disregarded and challenged by many states in the U.S. including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah, which have passed anti-abortion bills in recent months (Washington Post, 2019). Alabama proposed an abortion ban, even in cases of rape and incest, with the only exception being that it be allowed in the event of life-threatening danger. The nature of abortion itself restricts the bodily independence of a woman. Although recent laws in the United States have sparked discussion, it is imperative to recognize that the fight for abortion rights is global.
Despite recent discussions on human rights challenges, there is no denying that the United States awards many freedoms to the public. Brutal periods of oppression have resulted in uprisings. Women’s suffrage movements have broken out, allowing extraordinary social change to occur. In comparison, various Latin American countries are more restrictive on issues surrounding women’s rights. This is a result of a history steeped in authoritarian tendencies which pass policies that are created out of self-interest.
For instance, Guatemala, which accounts for just 0.23% of the world’s population, is not commonly mentioned in global discussions on women’s rights (Worldometers). Despite this, there is a need to recognize inequality and restrictions that are placed on women. The laws in Guatemala against abortion are not isolated, they apply to the majority of Latin American countries as well. In fact, Guatemala is “Just one of the 16 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean to highly restrict abortion with the only exception of saving a woman’s life.” (Guttmacher Institute) A woman will be punished with prison if she causes or induces her own abortion or decides to seek help for the procedure. Medical professionals who are responsible for performing abortions will also be punished with prison sentences or be forced to leave work for five years or more (Women On Waves). These laws are predicted to continue piling up with news of the recent bill “5272”, meant to criminalize miscarriages, as well as condemn people who even attempt to provide access to abortion to years in prison (Amnesty International). Harsh laws such as these are not only a result of authoritarian tendencies but also a relationship with the Catholic church. Even though the government is technically secular, the ideology of the church finds ways to seep through the cracks of administration through politicians. This does not necessarily mean that the church should be demonized. In the past, Guatemala discovered ways to turn this idea of the church being strictly anti-abortion around and use it rather as a vehicle for partial change and the advocation of women’s rights. In the face of challenges, this movement was not a longstanding cause but a short term crusade for justice.
Attempts to restrict the availability of abortions are not viable solutions. Historically speaking, no matter the country, abortion rates do not drop when laws become more prohibitive. “During 2010–2014, about one in four abortions in Latin America and the Caribbean were safe. The majority (60%) of procedures fell into the less-safe category” (Guttmacher Institute). In response to this, viable solutions should be discussed, starting with improving awareness about contraceptive measures as well as increasing their availability. This is a logical way to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and eventually to reduce the abortion rate as a direct result. Secondly, family planning should be implemented, especially in rural areas where having many children is common. These are just some of the reformations that could potentially be explored. If the government wishes to save lives.
The debate against abortion is more of an ethical conflict than anything else. A desire to remove the bodily rights of women is a result of societal pressure and neglect of science. It is a simple decision to choose the rights of women like Teodora Vasquez who was imprisoned in El Salvador for 11 years because of a miscarriage she couldn’t stop from happening (International La Croix). The government of Guatemala should be urged to stop and think about the consequences of abortion.
Iati, M., & Paul, D. (2019, May 17). Everything you need to know about the abortion ban news. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/05/17/havent-been-following-abortion-ban-news-heres-everything-you-need-know/?utm_term=.a874b08d31de
Guatemala Population (LIVE). (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/guatemala-population/
Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. (2018, June 22). Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/abortion-latin-america-and-caribbean
Worrell, M. (n.d.). Abortion Law Guatemala. Retrieved from https://www.womenonwaves.org/en/page/4921/abortion-law-guatemala
Guatemala: Discriminatory law puts at risk the lives and rights of thousands of women, girls and LGBTI people. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/09/guatemala-ley-discriminatoria-pone-en-riesgo-la-vida-y-los-derechos-de-miles-de-mujeres-ninas-y-personas-lgbti/
Guatemala pro-abortionists retreat in face of religious opposition. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://international.la-croix.com/news/guatemala-pro-abortionists-retreat-in-face-of-religious-opposition/8351#