A Friday night media release from the Women’s Equality Center:
On International Women’s Day 2019, more than one million women, activists, feminist groups, and human rights organizations rallied across Latin America, calling for reproductive freedom and gender equality. Demonstrators in Argentina, El Salvador, and Honduras demanded access to safe, legal abortion and emergency contraception. Together, these countries severely limit or completely ban abortion procedures, which has disproportionate impact on vulnerable, low-income women and girls.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
In Buenos Aires, more than one million people marched today on the Argentine Congress in support of legislation that would legalize abortion up to 14 weeks. Currently in Argentina, abortion is illegal with the exception of rape or endangerment to the life of the woman. However, even when abortion is legal, access is not guaranteed.
The march comes one week after an 11-year-old girl in Tucumán, who was raped by her grandmother’s partner and became pregnant, was forced to undergo a caesarean section after being denied her legal right to an abortion. The c-section was performed at 23 weeks, nearly two months after the girl, referred to as “Lucia” to protect her identity, sought to terminate the pregnancy.
Jenny Durám, a member of La Campaña Nacional por el Derecho por al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito, said: “We are marching today because we are determined to fight for the progress of our country. This week has been a painful reminder of how Argentina’s laws continue to fail the most vulnerable people. Access to abortion is a human right; We will not rest until it is legal, safe and free.”
In 2018, Argentina’s National Congress narrowly failed to pass legislation that would have legalized abortion up to 14 weeks, despite widespread support in country for abortion care as a basic human right. More than two million people marched ahead of the vote in the Argentine Senate—the largest ever demonstration for abortion access in the world.
San Salvador, El Salvador
Demonstrators took to the streets of San Salvador calling on the government to release the more than 25 women currently in prison related to the country’s total abortion ban, widely considered to be the most extreme abortion ban in the world. The activists continue to urge the government to create exceptions to the ban in cases of rape and incest, and when the woman’s life is at risk. The march comes one day after El Salvador’s Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) commuted the sentences of three women who were unjustly imprisoned as a result of the country’s total abortion ban. Together, Alba Lorena Rodríguez, María del Tránsito Orellana and Cinthia Marcela Rodríguez served a total of 29 years in prison.
El Salvador is the only country known to regularly prosecute and imprison women for suspected abortions, even in cases of miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies. More than 25 women are currently in prison under trumped-up charges of manslaughter, homicide, or aggravated homicide after being accused of having an abortion.
In February 2019, Nayib Bukele was elected President of El Salvador. Bukele was the only candidate to publicly call for an end to the country’s total abortion ban and to endorse exceptions to the ban when a woman’s health is at risk. Bukele’s election came six weeks after a judge in El Salvador dismissed charges against Imelda Cortez, a rape survivor who served 20 months in prison for a crime she did not commit.
“On March 8, I march for the freedom of all women, for our autonomy and for girls and adolescents to stop being victims of imposed pregnancies,” said Morena Herrera, a leader in the fight for women’s rights in El Salvador.
On April 4, Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz will stand trial, accused of an abortion after delivering a stillborn child. Evelyn became pregnant at age 18 as a result of sexual violence. Despite the fact that there is no evidence showing that Evelyn ever attempted to end the pregnancy, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide. After 33 months in prison, the decision was overturned on appeal; prosecutors have decided to retry Evelyn on the same unsubstantiated charges.
In Honduras, women took to the streets calling for an end to the government’s repressive policies on women. Honduras currently imposes the strictest ban on emergency contraception in the world, carrying criminal penalties equal to performing or obtaining an abortion, which is also completely banned in the country. Anyone who performs an abortion in Honduras can be sentenced anywhere from three to 10 years in prison.
Access to PAE is a critical tool in preventing unwanted pregnancy. Honduras has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world; currently, PAE is not included in treatment protocols for survivors of rape or sexual assault. Up to half of sexually-active young women in Honduras face obstacles to obtaining modern contraceptives, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Ana Falope, an activist in Tegucigalpa, said: “We march for us, for those women that are not with us anymore because of violence against women, and we march so others in the future won’t have to. We deserve full rights, including access to emergency contraception. ”
About Women’s Equality Center:
Women’s Equality Center is a non-partisan project that brings together like-minded organizations to respond to attacks on women’s reproductive health and freedoms. They have begun various initiatives in Latin America in countries that have total bans on abortion, including El Salvador, Honduras, and Dominican Republic.