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  • An estimated 35,000 clandestine abortions take place in El Salvador every year.

    An estimated 35,000 clandestine abortions take place in El Salvador every year. | Photo: EFE

Published 13 March 2018

In October 2016, the leftist government introduced a bill in Congress meant to amend the article 133 of the Penal Code, but conservative parties and anti-abortion organizations have opposed the initiative.

Legislator Lorena Peña, a member of the governing leftist FMLN, urged her counterparts on Monday to approve a bill meant to decriminalize and modify the full abortion ban before the conservative party ARENA takes over the government as a result of the elections carried out earlier this month.

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“It is urgent to approve the decriminalization of abortion (at least) in the four exceptional cases before the administration changes, because ARENA has no right to force women to die,” she said in an interview with local media.

In October 2016, the leftist government introduced a bill in Congress meant to amend the article 133 of the Penal Code, but conservative parties and anti-abortion organizations have opposed the initiative.

However, Peña said legislators had “more or less six weeks left” to do something “in favor of Salvadoran women,” “so they are allowed, according to their convictions and beliefs, to chose between death or life when the pregnancy is putting at risk their lives.”

During a visit in 2017, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Salvadoran government to stop enforcing Article 133 of the Penal Code, which prohibits abortion in all cases.   

Four other countries in Latin America also have a complete ban on abortion: Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti and Suriname. Only Cuba, Uruguay and Mexico City allow abortions without restrictions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Anti-abortion groups across Latin America receive millions of dollars from "pro-life" groups based in the United States, although U.N. experts consider the criminalization of abortion a form of discrimination based on sex and a "grave violation of women's human rights."

However, progress in the realization of reproductive rights across Latin America remains slow, with anti-abortion groups increasingly organizing and pressuring governments.

In Brazil, for example, evangelical lawmakers are pushing for an outright ban on abortion in all cases, including rape and risk to the woman's life. The measure is due to be discussed in Congress next year. 


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