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Where is the worst place for abortions?

On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, GlobalPost looks at abortion rights around the world.

Abortion rights el salvador 2013 01 18Enlarge
A woman participates in a march on the International Day of Action for the Decriminalization of Abortion, on Sept. 28, 2012 in San Salvador. (Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's note: Ever since the US Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion has been legal in every state of the union.

But that's to say nothing of the rest of the world. We asked GlobalPost correspondents from Cairo to Caracas to assess abortion rights where they are.

United States

At the time of Roe v. Wade, women all over the US rejoiced that it would no longer be necessary to risk death with an illegal procedure or make a mad dash to New York — which in 1970 legalized abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy.

Today, abortion is, for the majority of Americans, a settled question. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 63 percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

But the controversy lives on. With the rise of the Tea Party in 2009, nearly every major political candidate is vetted on his or her stance toward abortion.

Conservative groups have ensured that no federal funds may be used for abortion, and have mounted an active campaign to defund reproductive care providers such as Planned Parenthood.

The furor may be testimony to the power of a small conservative minority to influence the political debate, but is unlikely to change the status quo. Candidates with a hard-line anti-abortion stance, such as Senate hopefuls Richard Mourdock of Indiana or Todd Akin of Missouri, lost soundly in recent elections.

The public has spoken.

Jean MacKenzie in Buzzards Bay, Mass.

Latin America

Latin America could be the worst place in the world for a woman wishing to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Five of the six nations with blanket bans on abortion are in the region, according to New York’s Center for Reproductive Rights: Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, abortion on demand in the first weeks of pregnancy is only available in Cuba, Guyana, the US territory of Puerto Rico, Mexico City and, since last October, Uruguay.

Peru also recently accepted recommendations from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council that it guarantee the right, established in law but in practice frequently flouted, to allow abortions for women pregnant from rape.

If the issue of abortion seems divisive in the United States, then it may be even more so in Latin America, with both the Catholic Church and, increasingly, evangelical Christians heavily influencing public policies regarding reproductive rights.

The result is that an estimated 1 million women a year in Latin America and the Caribbean need hospital treatment as a result of complications from backstreet abortions.

Simeon Tegel in Lima

Despite 14 years of left-wing government under President Hugo Chavez’s self-styled socialist revolution, Venezuela’s abortion laws remain governed by the ideology of the Catholic Church, with the practice being banned here unless the mother’s life is in danger. Voluntary abortion is punishable by up to two years in prison, though there is little chance of conviction.

Women in need of abortions either pay inflated prices to doctors on a black market or take under-the-counter pills bought for a few dollars at home. This, according to the Central University of Venezuela, leads to about 16 percent of all maternal deaths.

“Abortion isn’t a hypothetical situation, it’s a reality, it’s being done by women every day … our sisters, our neighbours; it’s a reality that we have to deal with,” said campaigner Tatiana Rojas, of the group Skirts in Revolution, in a television interview in November, adding that rich and poor were impacted very differently.

“[Wealthy women] can access foreign treatment or pay a private clinic,” she said, “whereas poor women are exposed to a clandestine market, irregular clinics, [or] they perform it upon themselves.”

Campaigns, however, have failed to gain any traction here. Skirts in Revolution’s abortion helpline was off the hook last week, its website is down and the group has not updated its Twitter feed for two months. In Venezuela, campaigns such as this are often overshadowed by a loud-mouthed political polarization rarely seen in the Western world.

— Girish Gupta in Caracas


South Africa liberalized abortion in 1997, after the first post-apartheid government passed a law allowing any woman of any age to get an abortion with no reason required during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Up to 20

Sherline Rodgers More than 1 year ago
my classmate's step-mother makes $81/hour on the computer. She has been laid off for nine months but last month her check was $13280 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site *********************************** ***************
Eusebio Pecurto More than 1 year ago
Eu sou a favor da liberdade de escolher
Jeff More than 1 year ago
I assume by "safest" you are referring to the mother, since half of the patients are guaranteed to die. Perhaps the mothers need to have the same respect for the baby's life and safety as they have for their own.
Sandra More than 1 year ago
Interesting how that "respect for the baby" suddenly disappears after that baby is born into a family needing public assistance, or a baby being incinerated under US bombs & drones.
Marsha Russell More than 1 year ago
No man should have an opinion unless you want your sexual rights infringed upon.
Stan Zorin More than 1 year ago
Abortion rights are important because the various rights tied to the freedom of choice are inseparable from each other. Many people are opposed to these rights, they are opposed to the freedom to choose to gas people who are not wanted by the society at large like they are opposed to the freedom to choose to chop to pieces the preborn people who are also not wanted. Abortion rights activists are doing a great work to ensure that the rights to do what we want to do are protected, that when we want to get rid of those who are not wanted, by gassing, by mechanical or chemical means like in the abortion mills, or by mass drownings for instance or by the mass bombings, abortion rights activists do a great work to make sure that the mankind 's old inclination and right to get rid of unwanted groups continues to be a part of the universal human conduct.
Terry Stam More than 1 year ago
Stan, you are the man! Hopefully people will see the terror of what is "Safe and legal" staring them in their face, and realize what is happening, and also stop denying what is obvious from a scientific standpoint - there is a seperate human being there who is needing protection.
Sandra More than 1 year ago
wonder if you care equally about those separate human beings bombed under US drones & bombs in Yemen & Pakistan (at least the children and the unborn of mothers still pregnant), or those separate human beings (babies & children) of poor parents living on unemployment benefits or needing public assistance, or those babies & children being shot and killed by assault rifles in schools....oh, that's right, I forgot-people like you care only about the "preborn" or the "unborn"--once they're born....who cares?
Marsha Russell More than 1 year ago
Well Terry, the woman born in India who needed an abortion in Ireland, sure got what she deserved. Protected her baby right to death as well as the mother. No pro choice person is pro abortion. You people are all extreme and any man with an opinion against choice, should also lose his choice. Castration is pretty simple and it would take care of a lot of unwanted pregnancies.
Sandra More than 1 year ago
Just as many children are opposed to the freedom not to be bombed by US drones & bombs, or the freedom not to be shot by assault rifles at schools or the freedom to eat even tho their parents may be unemployed. Oh but I forgot-people like you care only about babies when they're not born yet. Once they're born...suddenly all your concern disappears.