Abortion struggles in Argentina and Uruguay

Across the Americas, abortion complicates the separation of church and state, particularly in Argentina and Uruguay, where the church’s moral imperatives clash with national laws.

In Argentina, the law is very clear — abortion is legal in certain circumstances when the health of the mother is threatened.

Yet broad-based-opposition to this law has coalesced into a “holy war” of sorts, including protests at the site of healthcare facilities and considerable media coverage of the controversy.

As an abortion provider, the Hospital Rivadavia in Buenos Aires was picketed continuously by self-professed Catholic anti-abortion protesters.

According to the protestors, the fetus’s existence as a person begins at conception, and mothers do not have the right to terminate under any circumstance: “El único que decide si la mujer está en riesgo de vida es Dios” — “God is the only one who can decide if the woman is in danger.”

In Uruguay, elective abortion was legalized in 2012, joining only two other countries in Latin America, Cuba and Guyana.

Among the outcomes Uruguay has seen is a major drop in maternal deaths from unsafe abortions — from 40 percent to eight percent.

Overall, Uruguay’s maternal death rate is second-lowest in the Western Hemisphere (below Canada and three places above the United States).

Yet it is still difficult for women in Uruguay to find gynecologists willing to perform the procedure, as many are registered as “conscientious objectors.”

In addition, the law requires women to meet with a team of healthcare experts who “educate her” on her choice but may end up not-so-subtly trying to dissuade her; women must also go through a five-day waiting period prior to finalizing the procedure.

Nevertheless, advocates say legalization in Uruguay may end up influencing neighboring countries, including Argentina.

Sources: Pagina12 (Argentina), The Guardian

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