LIMA, Peru — Few Latin American countries have open abortion laws. Yet after years of fighting for change, Peru has modified its abortion guidelines to be much more lenient.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, a U.S.-based organization, approved of the new protocols and supported the need for change after a young woman became a quadriplegic after being denied an abortion to correct her spine. After being impregnated through rape, the victim jumped off of a building; her failed suicide attempt left her mangled. In an attempt to prevent a reoccurrence of this event, the United Nations has stepped in.
The U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women decided on new guidelines for access to abortion including, “in cases of rape; ensure the availability of those abortion services; and guarantee access to abortion services when a woman’s life or health is in danger—circumstances under which abortion is already legal in the country.”
The changes will take time to spread, more so in rural areas where tradition is strong and nearly impossible to alter. Urban areas will have an easier time slipping into this new stage of women’s rights as many have been hoping for a change.
Monica Arango is the regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the CRR and is genuinely pleased with these guidelines. In an interview with the Thomas Reuters Foundation she acknowledged that “it’s an immense step forward to ensure women can have access to safe, legal abortion services in these limited circumstances,” hopefully leading to significant change in women’s lives.
Prior to this amendment, abortion laws in peru made this illegal, except in the case of a woman’s life being in danger. Those who protested in support of abortion were criminalized by the Roman Catholic Church, the leading religious organization in Peru and a strict proponent of anti-abortion laws. Over time, traditions have relaxed and people have modernized their concepts of what may lead to abortions.
These strict laws surrounding abortion often end with financially unstable women and families raising children. The opportunities to surpass the socio-economic level they are born into are few and far between in the many poor neighborhoods surrounding Peru’s major cities. With the choice of raising a child on an extremely limited budget or with an unreachable cost of birth control, Peruvian women more often than not take the less expensive route, while there may be more severe outcomes in the future. This cycle of being born into a young family in a poor area repeats itself, propagating the poverty throughout generations.
Few had access to emergency contraceptives, and only those who could afford private healthcare providers were able to do so. According to the CRR, “the devastating impact of criminalizing abortion in cases of rape is particularly far-reaching in Peru, which has the highest rate of reported rape in South America,” directing many women to take the often deadly risk of a black market abortion.
– Elena Lopez