A 22-year-old woman in El Salvador, whose pseudonym is Beatriz, is currently in the hospital, waiting for an abortion that could save her life. Her doctors want to terminate her pregnancy. So, why haven’t they? Because they fear being prosecuted under El Salvador’s laws, which prohibit abortion in all cases with no exceptions for rape, incest, the health of the mother or the life of the mother. You can sign the Care2 petition asking El Salvador’s Supreme Court to guarantee that Beatriz and her doctors will not be prosecuted for undergoing and performing a life-saving procedure here. Sadly, El Salvador isn’t the only country to ban abortion in all cases with no exceptions whatsoever. Here are the five countries that do.
In 1967, Chile legalized abortion when it was necessary to save the mother’s life. In 1989 President Augusto Pinochet (Right Wing Dictator and egregious human rights offender) made abortion illegal under all circumstances. Pinochet is long gone, yet his draconian abortion laws remain in effect. In 2006, President Michelle Bachelet authorized government distribution of the morning-after pill to women 14 and older. Two years later, however, Chile’s Constitutional Tribunal ended this program.
In 1998, the government of El Salvador passed a new penal code banning all abortions without exception. An earlier law allowed abortions in cases of threats to the health or life of the woman, rape, incest or severe fetal abnormality. A 1999 constitutional amendment defined a human being from the moment of conception. An estimated 628 women have been imprisoned since the 1998 law was enacted for having abortions. Twenty-four of these women were indicted for “aggravated murder” after an abortion, or even after a miscarriage or stillbirth. If doctors find evidence of an abortion, they must report their patients to the police. Women seeking medical help after a botched abortion have been handcuffed to their hospital beds. For obvious reasons, it is unknown how many illegal abortions have been performed. But attempts to self-induce abortions are the second highest cause of maternal mortality in the country.
Since 1893, women in Nicaragua had been allowed to have an abortion if her life was in danger. In 2006, however, Nicaragua banned all abortions under any circumstances. The new penal code specifies prison sentences of one to three years for the person who performs the abortion, and one to two years for the woman who gets it. Nicaragua has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, and adolescent girls between 15 and 19 years account for a quarter of all births. The effect of the abortion ban has been an increase in the maternal mortality rate. Unsafe abortion is currently the leading cause of maternal deaths in the country.
The Dominican Republic
Translation: No more rosaries in our ovaries. Photo by anna joy
In 2009, Congress passed a constitutional amendment stating that “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death.” An estimated 90,000 illegal abortions are performed each year almost all through self-induced abortions or unsafe abortions, making it the third greatest cause of maternal death in the country.
Malta’s criminal code prohibits abortion in all circumstances. It states:
1) Whosoever, by any food, drink, medicine, or by violence, or by any other means whatsoever, shall cause the miscarriage of any woman with child, whether the woman be consenting or not, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from 18 months to three years; (2) The same punishment shall be awarded against any woman who shall procure her own miscarriage, or who shall have consented to the use of the means by which the miscarriage is procured.
Malta used to allow for abortions to save the woman’s life, but removed the provision for this in 1981.