Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

Since 2006, Nicaragua has been one of only 3 countries in the world to completely ban abortion under any circumstance. Most recently in July 2008, the penal code was reinforced by the government to criminalize abortions sought, obtained or performed for any reason, the medical providers who perform abortions, and even women who suffer from miscarriages. In addition, doctors and nurses who treat pregnant women for illnesses where the treatment can cause injury or death to the embryo or fetus she carries will also be prosecuted for causing harm to the developing pregnancy.

Amnesty International has a report which details the atrocities that have occurred because of this law and discusses the various human rights violations as a result of this ban. The article goes further to include the official figures of 33 girls and women who have died during pregnancy in the past year alone, most like an under-reported figure, and how there has been a recorded rise in pregnant teen suicide by poison in 2008.

It is obvious to anyone who values the lives of women and the right to control their reproduction, that this continued ban in Nicaragua is a dangerous to women and is a clear violation of human rights. It is important to recognize what barriers to reproductive justice Latinas face around the world, because it is possible that any woman anywhere could be discriminated against for wanting to control her own fertility and reproduction. If people continue to bring attention to this detrimental legislation and organize communities around these offenses against women, hopefully laws such as this one will be overturned soon.

By Robin Mangini, Research Intern


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From the International Women’s Health Coalition, a call to action to support Dominican Women’s Rights. About the situation in the DR:

Recently, President Leonel Fernandez proposed new Constitutional language to establish the right to life from conception. Women’s rights and health advocates, led by Colectiva Mujer y Salud, are concerned that this new language could make it illegal for women to use contraceptives or assisted reproduction and stop any progress on making abortion safe and legal. 

You can take action two ways:

(1)    Sign a petition, asking the President Leonel Fernandez and Vice President Julio Cesar Valentin Jiminian to stand strong for women’s rights, and
(2)    Send a letter to the President and Vice President to express your concern women’s rights are being eroded in the Constitutional reform process and demand that they stand up for women’s rights and health. Read a sample letter, Spanish language only, here.

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Photo courtesy of healthypr.wordpress.com


In a recent Newsweek exclusive, Tina Peng writes about medical tourism and the shift in health care, especially for uninsured Americans, to Mexico.


In America, there are approximately 47 million uninsured, and many more that are underinsured, or paying for coverage that costs carriers large out of pocket expenses. 


For Americans like these, paying for expensive medical procedures can be a distant dream.  However recent trends in opening up American hospitals in Mexico are making the country the hot spot for people who can’t afford care in the U.S.


Countries such as Mexico and India, have offered services at a fraction of the cost charged in U.S. hospitals.  Because Mexico is only a short plan ride or drive away, the cost of traveling to hospitals in Mexico and paying for airfare can still end up being significantly cheaper.


As mentioned in the article, Dorthea, an American living in Texas, was able to drive across the border and get a $30,000 gastric band procedure done for $10,000. 


With rising costs for health insurance and medical care, medical tourism may be the way to go for the uninsured.  Texas, a state which as of 2006 had the highest uninsured population in the United States, would benefit the most, as they can get to Mexico fairly quickly and cheaply. 


Furthermore, this practice may be an added benefit to Mexican immigrants, many of whom are barred from health care coverage for five years after migrating to the United States.


Unfortunately, there are some downsides to seeking medical care abroad:

Accurate statistics on botched procedures involving foreign nationals at hospitals around the world aren’t available, but critics point out in addition to the lack of information about the quality of care in various countries, there are inherent drawbacks in a situation where patients have to return to another country to get follow-up care. And of course there’s often a lack of access to malpractice insurance coverage in Mexico and other countries. But a similar argument could be made against American health care, the University of Texas’s Warner says: “It’s not clear that you have such wonderful protections here, especially if you can’t afford to get the care, so then you go to a public facility that’s more or less protected from too much malpractice liability.”

These concerns aren’t stopping Texans who view the hospitals across the border as an affordable alternative. It remains to be seen whether more Americans will take a gamble and bet that Mexican hospitals can provide care that is as good as their counterparts north of the border. Meanwhile, as Warner points out, for the uninsured, Mexico may be the only option.

Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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Contributed by Angela Donadic


In the Center for Disease Controls’ latest issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a study was done comparing the reproductive health of women in Brownsville, Texas to women from Matamoros, Mexico.


The Brownsville-Matamoros Sister city Project for Women’s Health looked at unplanned pregnancies and prenatal care, among other reproductive health issues in both groups of women (to view the study, click here). 


An interesting finding was that almost half of the pregnancies of women living in both cities were unplanned, with about 30% of these pregnancies occurring in women younger than 20 years.  More surprising was that 40% of the unplanned pregnancies occurred in women who were using some form of birth control.


When comparing the two groups, researchers found that women in the Mexican city of Matamoros were more likely to receive counseling on contraception during their prenatal care visits, and more likely to be insured than the women living in Texas. However, women in Texas were more likely to have been tested for HIV and received a PAP test.


Despite the belief that the United States has the “best health care system in the world”, it appears that the benefits of our health care system are restricted to certain “privileged” groups… rarely including Latina immigrants, and low-income women.


The reality is that health insurance is a luxury that many Latina immigrants are unable to afford.  In fact about 56% of low-income Latina immigrants are uninsured in the U.S. 


As put by Brian Castrucci of the Texas Department of State Health Services who took part in the survey,

Almost every piece of reproductive health is based on planned pregnancies.  But we’re seeing this large percentage of folks who are having unplanned pregnancies.  So again there’s a great opportunity for binational collaboration around a topic that has some significant health impacts.

 Clearly with half of the 1,000 respondents having unintended pregnancies, more needs to be done to provide resources and education to women.


Contributed by Angela Donadic

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From Ipas press release:

Mexican Supreme Court upholds Mexico City abortion law by overwhelming majority

In what is being hailed as a landmark decision for women’s rights, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) upheld a law legalizing abortion in Mexico City through 12 weeks of pregnancy, rejecting a constitutional challenge. 

Eight justices voted against the claim, while only three voted in favor. The unexpected but overwhelming majority establishes the Mexico City law as “jurisprudence,” or protected from future judicial challenge. Thus the decision paves the way for other states to use the Mexico City law to modify their penal codes and decriminalize abortion.

Dr. Raffaela Schiavon, director of Ipas Mexico, applauded the verdict, “This is a historic decision for women’s rights, not just in Mexico City, not even just in Mexico, but for women all over Latin America.”

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Human Rights Watch just released a report documenting the number of deaths that have resulted from the Nicaraguan Abortion Ban, called Over Their Dead Bodies.

From the report:

Nicaragua is one of only three countries in the world to maintain a blanket ban on abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or life- or health-threatening pregnancies.1Such blanket abortion bans are incompatible with international human rights obligations, including obligations on the rights to life, health, and non-discrimination. Their imposition can, and most often does, have serious effects on the lives and health of women and girls.

Nicaragua’s blanket ban on abortion was initially enacted in November 2006 and reaffirmed in September 2007, and includes a ban on previously-legal therapeutic abortions.2It allows for prison sentences for doctors who carry out abortions under any circumstances—even to save a pregnant woman’s life—and on women who seek abortions, again, regardless of the reason. Although it appears that actual prosecutions are rare, the ban has very real consequences that fall into three main categories:

Denial of access to life- or health-saving abortion services;
Denial or delay in access to other obstetric emergency care; and
A pronounced fear of seeking treatment for obstetric emergencies.

The net result has been avoidable deaths.

This ban is an appalling human rights violation. Thank you to everyone who sent an email as part of our online effort to stop this ban last spring (by far our largest participation rate ever)–it was unfortunately unsuccessful. According to WW4, hundreds of women marched in Managua on September 28 to protest the unnecessary deaths of over 80 women since the ban.

Via Feministing.

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