Thousands marched for abortion rights across Latin America on Tuesday, holding placards and banners that read “It is my right to decide” and “legal abortion for health and life,” as they demanded reproductive freedoms in a region known for some of the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws.
Several Latin American nations still ban abortion, including El Salvador, which has sentenced some women to up to 40 years in prison. In a number of high-profile cases, women have been convicted and imprisoned after suffering miscarriages and stillbirths. The rallies, held on International Safe Abortion Day, were aimed at pressuring lawmakers to ease punitive abortion laws, with demonstrators taking to the streets in countries including El Salvador, Chile and Mexico.
In El Salvador — where abortions are illegal even when the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother, and in cases of rape and incest — protesters held signs calling for safe and free legal abortions as they made their way to Congress. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has ruled out any reform to abortion laws as part of the controversial constitutional changes planned by his government. But Morena Herrera, a prominent Salvadoran feminist, said that such a move did not require constitutional reform, according to Reuters. “We are asking for minimum measures to add to the Penal Code to guarantee the life and integrity of women,” she said.
Changes to some abortion laws are happening in the largely Roman Catholic region. Last year, Argentina voted to legalize abortion at up to 14 weeks into pregnancy, after previously imposing prison sentences of up to 15 years except in cases of rape or danger to the mother’s health. On Tuesday, Chilean lawmakers were one step closer to easing the country’s tight restrictions after the lower Chamber of Deputies approved a plan to debate a bill expanding abortion access, according to an official press release. The bill proposes decriminalizing abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy — a major step for one of the region’s most conservative countries.