The Abortion Debate
Capozza, Korey, Hemisphere
Church and state confront social realities in Latin America
According to a 1996 report by the World Health Organization, Latin America has the highest incidence of illegal abortions of any other region on the planet. The report, which received very little media coverage, pointed to the dire state of women's health in the Third World. In Latin America, the numbers are shocking--41 of every 1,000 women undergo unsafe abortions, compared to 26 in Africa, 12 in Asia and two in Europe. Despite the gravity of the situation, abortion remains a taboo topic that receives little public discussion. But for Latin American women, the time for hushed debates is running out: Each year, four million women undergo abortions and 6,000 die as a direct result of the practice.
Marta, a 19-year-old from Cochabamba, Bolivia, is among the millions of casualties of the clandestine abortion system. Four years ago, Marta fell in love with her first boyfriend. That same year she became pregnant by him. With no means to support a baby, and basically a child herself, Marta went to La Paz, Bolivia's capital, to undergo an abortion. She had been referred to the doctor by a friend of a friend. When she arrived at the clandestine clinic in La Paz's seedy market neighborhood, the doctor asked her boyfriend to leave and come back in a few hours. Once the "abortion doctor" had Marta alone in the operating room, he raped her.
Marta's story is tragic but not uncommon. Every year, Bolivian women's sexual and reproductive rights are violated in the maze of unregulated "medical clinics" that perform clandestine abortions throughout the country. Despite the gravity of the abuse that Marta suffered, she had no legal recourse against the abortion doctor. In Bolivia--as in every Latin American country with the exceptions of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guyana--abortion is illegal. The social taboo that surrounds the issue and the illegality of the practice has insulated abortion clinics from scrutiny and denied women who have been abused by them any possibility of legal recourse.
THE BOLIVIAN EXAMPLE
Bolivian women have one of the highest fertility rates in Latin America and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. At the …
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Publication information: Article title: The Abortion Debate. Contributors: Capozza, Korey - Author. Journal title: Hemisphere. Volume: 9. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 1999. Page number: 16. © 1999 Latin American and Caribbean Center. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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