What do abortion laws look like in Latin America? Here’s a country-by-country map

What do abortion laws look like in Latin America? Here’s a country-by-country map

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Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Feb 28, 2022 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

After Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled 5-4 last week to decriminalize abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, abortion advocates hailed the ruling as part of a broader trend of abortion legalization among countries in earth’s most predominantly Catholic continent. 

Colombia is the third Latin American country partially to decriminalize abortion in the past three years, following Argentina in 2020 and Mexico in 2021, with significant opposition from Catholics. 

Below is a map showing the landscape of abortion laws in Central and South America and the Caribbean as of February 2022.

Argentina

In December 2020, the Argentinian senate legalized abortion. The new laws allow for abortion for any reason until week 14, and afterwards only for reasons of rape, or to preserve the mother’s life or health. 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 child’s death in order to alleviate a medical condition, this is not the same as directly and intentionally killing the baby.

Colombia

Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruling this week means that until the 24th week of pregnancy, abortion will not be a punishable crime, and that after this period it can be performed with no upper gestational limit on the grounds of risk to the life of the mother, sexual abuse, or fetal deformity.

The court ruling asks Congress and the national government 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 ruling.”

Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, as well as the country’s Catholic bishops, have criticized the ruling. 

Cuba

Abortion has been legal in Cuba with a 12-week limit since 1965, and is provided for free by the state health system. 

Ecuador

Abortions may be performed to preserve the life and health of the mother, or in cases of rape or for “economic or social reasons.”

Uruguay

Abortion has been legal, with a 12-week limit and only following a five-day “reflection period,” since 2012. There is a parental notification law for minors seeking abortions. 

Mexico

Abortion policy varies on a state-by-state basis. In September 2021, the Mexican Supreme Court issued a ruling invalidating the protection of life from conception in the Constitution of the state of Sinaloa. Pro-choice observers described the ruling as effectively decriminalizing abortion in Mexico, as the ruling is binding on other states. Most Mexican states currently do not allow abortions except to preserve the mother’s health. 

Belize

Abortion is permitted only in cases of fetal abnormality, incest, or to preserve the physical or mental health of the mother. 

Guatemala

Abortion is allowed only to protect the life of the mother; women who procure abortions can be jailed for as many as three years for procuring an abortion, or as little as six months if they are suffering from a psychiatric problem. Anyone who performs an abortion can be jailed for 1-3 years if the woman consents, or as many as six years if they performed it without the woman’s consent. 

Honduras

Illegal for any reason. In 2021, the government changed the constitution to prevent future abortion legalization. 

El Salvador 

Illegal for any reason.

Nicaragua

Illegal for any reason.

Costa Rica

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother. 

Panama

Abortion is allowed to save the mother’s life, as well as cases of fetal abnormalities and rape. 

Venezuela

Abortion allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother. 

Guyana

Allowed for any reason until 8 weeks; and until 16 weeks in cases of fetal impairment, rape, or incest; and after 16 weeks only to preserve the life and health of the mother. 

Suriname 

Illegal for any reason.

Brazil 

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother, or in cases of rape. 

Peru

Abortion not punishable only “when it is the only means to save the life of the pregnant woman or to avoid grave and permanent harm to her health.”

Bolivia

Abortion illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life and health (including mental health) of the mother. 

Paraguay

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother. 

Chile 

Abortion illegal except in cases of rape (but only before 12 weeks, unless the girl is under 14 years old, in which case the limit is 14 weeks), fetal abnormality, or to protect the life of the mother.

Dominican Republic

Illegal for any reason.

Haiti

Illegal for any reason.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother, and in cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.

Antigua and Barbuda

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother.

Dominica

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother.

Bahamas

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother.

Grenada

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother.

Trinidad and Tobago

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother.

Barbados

Allowed only to preserve the mental or physical health of the mother, and in cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.

Jamaica

Illegal for any reason.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Illegal for any reason.

Saint Lucia

Allowed only to preserve the life and health of the mother, and in cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.

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