Where Is Abortion Legal In Latin America? Conservative Country Chile Legalizes Practice Under Limited Circumstances

Although many would point the finger at the Middle East as having the worst countries for women’s rights, they might not know just where abortion is legal in Latin America. Chile just legalized the medical procedure in circumstances of rape, risk of death to the mother, or when the fetus is no longer viable; before that it, was one of just seven countries on earth where women could still not secure an abortion under any circumstances.

While Chile has left behind their draconian restrictions, there are still six Latin American nations where abortion is not legal no matter what the case surrounding the pregnancy. These nations are often rocked by cases of girls as young as twelve who are impregnated — often by force, and sometimes by members of their own family — and still must carry the baby to term. One such case in Chile was essential for pushing the agenda forward under the government of President Michelle Bachelet.

Latin American Nations Where Abortion Is Never Legal

  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Surname

Similarly, a woman on her deathbed may not legally seek an abortion in these Latin American countries — whether or not the baby killing her will actually be able to survive once she passes away. The only other places in the world to hold such restrictions are Malta and Vatican City.

Latin American legal abortion where and what countries
What countries have legalized abortion in Latin America? (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Still, there a number of countries that have legalized abortion when it comes to the death, permanent physical damage, and in rare instances, the mental well-being of the mother. All of the following nations, for instances, allow one or the other, but not a single one grants rape victims the right to reject their fetus. Some of them, like Jamaica and Panama, allow it with parental permission; the latter also allows it in cases of fetal impairment, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute.

Latin American Countries Where Abortion Is Not Legal Is Cases of Rape

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • Guatemala
  • Paraguay
  • Venezuela
  • Costa Rica
  • Grenanda
  • Peru
  • Bahamas
  • Jamaica
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Belize*

While a whopping 19 Latin American nations don’t allow women carrying a baby that is the product of rape to terminate her pregnancy, many of the countries that have legalized abortion in the case of sexual assault have other loopholes. Several, for example, do not make exception for incest, and many do not take physical or mental damage into account at all.

Legalized Abortion In Cases Of Rape, Death And Sometimes Physical Harm, Incest or *Socioeconomic Status

  • Brazil
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador
  • Barbados*
  • St. Vincent and Grenadines*
  • St. Lucia
  • Colombia
  • Chile

Of the 34 countries listed here, there are only four Latin American nations who allow full access to legalized abortion. Even among those countries, Cuba requires parental consent before the age of 18.

Latin American Nations With Unrestricted Access To Abortion

  • Cuba
  • Guyana
  • Puerto Rico
  • Uruguay

The state of abortion legalization in Latin America has had a detrimental effect on maternal and infant mortality. At least 10 percent of the deaths of pregnant women are because of unsafe abortions. Of the 4.4 million abortions estimated to have been performed in the area in 2008, a staggering 95 percent of them were not carried out by professionals. On a related note, around 750,000 women were hospitalized due to complications from botched abortions.

Proliferation of the Zika virus may have unintentionally helped spur a change in countries where abortion is legal in Latin America. Women in Brazil may be able to petition for the procedure in cases where their child will be born with severe brain damage. Wired drew a parallel to the 1960s United States, when middle-class white women with rubella normalized the practice among women afflicted with the disease — even before it was legalized.

[Image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]