Thursday, September 28, 2017

More than half of Lat Am's abortions are unsafe (Sept. 28, 2017)

Today is International Safe Abortion Day

There are nearly 56 million abortions every year in the world and almost half of them are unsafe, according  research from the World Health Organization. Of those, most are carried out in the developing world. There were 55.7 million abortions every year between 2010 and 2014 worldwide, and of them 17.1 million were unsafe, according to the study carried out with the Guttmacher Institute and published in the Lancet. Another eight million were categorized as "least safe," involving desperate and dangerous backstreet measures, from swallowing toxic substances to inserting wires to try to bring about a miscarriage.

Places where abortion is safest have the fewest women carrying out the procedure. Lead author Dr Bela Gunatra, from the WHO, told the Guardian their work showed "the persistence of inequalities by geography, by income, by levels of development ... that’s the real tragedy that these findings point to." 

“There is an association between highly restrictive laws and unsafe abortion,” she told the media.

And experts say women in poor countries face even higher risks due to U.S. funding cuts to family planning programs abroad, reports Reuters. "Attempts to stop abortion by withholding family planning aid do not work, because they do not eliminate women’s need for abortion. In fact, studies have shown that by preventing USAID from partnering with organizations like Marie Stopes International that deliver comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, the Mexico City Policy actually increases the number of abortions that take place in developing countries," writes Araceli Lopez Nava VázquezCountry director for Marie Stopes Mexico in the Huffington Post.

Africa leads the world in least safe abortions and death. But in Latin America more than half of the abortions are considered unsafe, largely because they are being carried out with pills but without adequate support. According to the study 6.4 million abortions were carried out in the region between 2010 and 2014, 4.9 million of which were considered unsafe, reports CNN.

In the region, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Suriname  maintain total abortion bans, reports AFP.

Abortion briefs from the region
  • El Salvador continues to have one of the harshest abortion bans in the world. "A testament to the counter-effects of the legislation, the abortion ban is thought to be the second leading cause of maternal mortality in El Salvador," reports the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "The associated risks of illegal abortions are dangerous and often deadly, especially to young women with developing reproductive systems." And the situation is only made worst by high rates of sexual violence in the country. A bill permitting abortion in limited circumstances is stagnating in the country's congress due to political opposition. (See May 9's post.)
  • "Abortion is a crime in Brazil, except in cases of rape, when the life of the woman is at risk, or the fetus has anencephaly—a fatal congenital brain disorder. ... Because of restrictions on access to abortion, hundreds of thousands of women and girls in Brazil risk their health and lives to get clandestine, and often unsafe, abortions each year," writes Human Rights Watch's Margaret Wurth in Folha de S. Paulo. "More than 900 women and girls have died from unsafe abortion in Brazil since 2005, according to Ministry of Health data. Roughly one out of every six deaths from unsafe abortion between 2011 and 2015 was of a girl or young woman between the ages of 10 and 19." HRW has filed briefs in cases seeking to decriminalize abortion, noting that "the criminalization of abortion is incompatible with Brazil’s human rights obligations."
  • Legal abortion in Barbados, legislated in 1983, reduced maternal mortality over the following 25 years. Passage of the law required strong political leadership supported by broad grassroots efforts, writes Dame Billie Miller, minister of health at the time, in the Guardian. "When governments deny women access to safe and legal abortion, it does nothingto decrease the rate at which abortions occur. Instead, it leads to more injuries and deaths. In the absence of care, women resort to all kinds of methods to interrupt unintended pregnancies – unqualified healthcare providers, self-made drug concoctions, coat hangers – each more dangerous than the next."
News Briefs
  • Guatemalan chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana has asked the Supreme Court to strip President Jimmy Morales of immunity, so he can be investigated for $61,000 he apparently received from the army, reports the Associated Press. It's the second time in less than two months that Aldana has requested to investigate Morales -- last month she requested an investigation into illicit campaign financing, though Congress rejected lifting Morales' immunity in that case.
  • Earlier this week Venezuela's opposition said it would not participate in a dialogue effort with the government, saying not enough progress has been made on issues such as human rights to warrant full bilateral talks, reports Reuters. The opposition is wary of repeating a process that was inconclusive last year and seen as benefiting the government. (See Sept. 18's post.)
  • The San Blas massacre, in which police executed eight people at an isolated farmstead in 2015, has become a symbol of the atrocious human rights abuses committed by the security forces in their battle to control the country's gang violence. Now the case will also represent impunity, after a judge absolved the eight officers implicated in the case this week, though recognizing that at least one of the dead was the victim of an extrajudicial killing, argues an El Faro editorial. (See yesterday's briefs for Roberto Valencia's take.)
  • A year after El Salvador's Constitutional Court struck down a 1993 amnesty law, the only active trial relating to the country's long civil war is that of the El Mozote massacre, reports El Faro. And the case is wending its way slowly, facing obstacles of an antiquated system and the sheer amount of time that has passed since the 1981 operative that killed over a thousand people. The difficulty for the prosecution will be demonstrating that the accused, who include former minister of defense José Guillermo García, actually participated in or actively covered up the three day massacre, explains Nelson Rauda Zablah.
  • This week the FMLN government created a commission dedicated to searching for adult victims of forced disappearances during El Salvador's civil war, reports El Faro.
  • U.S. Democratic lawmakers -- more than a hundred members of the house and several senators -- called on President Donald Trump to step up aid efforts in Puerto Rico, yesterday, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A group of bondholders of Puerto Rican debt are proposing more debt as a relief measure for the bankrupt island. Specifically, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) Bondholder Group has offered a debt swap in order to make funds available immediately to restore power on most of the island, reports The Intercept.
  • Puerto Rico needs emergency funding and a break from the U.S. and bondholder induced austerity measures, argues The Nation. "Puerto Rico has been hit by the double whammy of irresponsible policy driven by a lust for profit. The reckless speculation in bonds ignored not only the fact that its economy was failing, but that the island itself is vulnerable to extreme weather events resulting from climate change ..."
  • Fifteen people were killed in a mass shooting at a drug rehabilitation center in Mexico's Chihuahua state. Drug gangs have been known to use rehab centers to recruit addicts, and rival gangs sometimes assault the centers, reports the Associated Press.
  • The U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, told media the FARC is not complying with its part of the peace accord, and that the former guerrilla force continues to encourage coca cultivation in certain areas of the country. He also said should not be involved in government efforts to implement crop substitution programs for coca farmers, reports InSight Crime. It's part of a growing rift between the two countries, with the U.S. skeptical of the peace process, which it blames for an increase in cocaine production. (See last Friday's briefs on a report questioning the causality between increased production and consumption.)
  • A FARC dissident leader was killed in a military operative in province of Guaviare, reports the BBC.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales enacted on Tuesday a law that guarantees job stability for workers with serious disabilities and establishes a monthly payment of $36 for those who are no longer able to work, reports EFE.

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