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How do Latin America’s total abortion bans affect women’s health and human rights and society at large? Who should make decisions about whether to end a pregnancy? Should society understand abortion from a religious or public health perspective? These are just some of the difficult questions that panelists raised during the June 10th Symposium on Reproductive Rights in Latin America, jointly sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Each of the symposium’s three panels addressed reproductive rights in Latin America through a particular lens. To start the symposium, Chilean Congressman Vlado Mirosevic Verdugo and Morena Herrera, president of the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion, Feminist Collective in El Salvador, discussed the health and human rights consequences of total abortion bans in their respective countries.

Click here to view Mirosevic Verdugo’s presentation.

Mexican political scientist Denise Dresser and Uruguayan vice minister of health Dr. Leonel Briozzo assessed the effects of abortion liberalization on democracy and social equity in their countries. Harvard professor Jocelyn Viterna, meanwhile, addressed not only how abortion bans negatively impact reproductive health, but also how they create criminals of innocent women.

Click here to view Briozzo’s presentation.

Catholics for the Right to Decide’s Julián Cruzalta of Mexico, Chilean family law and international human rights attorney Macarena Saez of American University’s Washington College of Law, and Georgetown Law Center’s Oscar Cabrera closed the symposium by analyzing how liberalizing or tightening abortion bans can affect women’s civil rights, democracy, social equity, and health.

Click here to view Cabrera’s presentation.

Six countries in the world completely ban abortion, and five of them are in Latin America. During his presentation, Briozzo noted that the region is home to some of the world’s most Catholic countries, several of which also have alarmingly high maternal mortality rates. The Church, a powerful institution in many Latin American societies, has significantly influenced how the region understands abortion, Cruzalta asserted. He further argued that the region must reassess its abortion regulations for “profound ethical reasons.” Society and the state should neither “judge a woman’s conscience” nor violate her human rights. Panelists also mentioned that political and social institutions, including the Church and political parties, play a powerful role in advocating for their ideological position on reproductive rights legislation and influencing public opinion and lawmakers to follow suit.

Click here to read Dresser's remarks.

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