Time for Change: Reproductive Rights in Latin America in 21st Century

time for change, reproductive rights report

On September 28, 2011, thousands of reproductive rights supporters marked the region‘s annual ―Day of Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. From Managua to Buenos Aires, advocacy groups marched, held conferences and met with government officials to call for reform of the region‘s restrictions on abortion. In many cities, there was reason for optimism, as numerous lawmakers had introduced pro-choice legislation, called for hearings, or pledged to work with groups supporting this cause. At the same time, international bodies ranging from Amnesty International to the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the region‘s leaders to respond to the urgent need for change in the interest of saving women‘s lives.

This report looks at the struggle for abortion rights in Latin America. Globalization, transnationalism, changing relationships between civil society and the state, and decentralization have all contributed to new spaces from which reproductive rights' proponents can now act. The increasing presence and influence of women with political power – while slow to contribute to a shift in abortion rights policies – have granted feminist issues a more prominent position on the region‘s political agenda. The impressive numbers of women legislators across the region (nearing 40 percent in some countries, compared with 17 percent in the United States) have coincided with important legal advances on women‘s rights. Women legislators united in multiparty alliances were responsible for passing laws on domestic violence, rape, quotas, and the reform of discriminatory civil and criminal codes. Yet the mere presence of women in power will not automatically produce policy outcomes favorable to women‘s interests. At the same time, civil society activists for women‘s rights in Latin America are forging new paths for their work, resulting in promising opportunities that cut across traditional lines of class, race, ethnicity and territory. Despite countervailing forces of religious fundamentalism and cultural conservatism that stubbornly obstruct progress on reproductive rights, there are signs that change is on the horizon.


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