Overview of abortion in Latin America

Argentina is close to being the fourth country in Latin America to decriminalize abortion .

Abortion rights activists attend a demonstration for the legalization of abortion in Latin America

More and more countries are joining the decriminalization of abortion. / Photo: REUTERS-Ricardo Moraes

Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez

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Leer en español: Panorama del aborto en Latinoamérica

Last Friday the Argentine House of Representatives approved the law that seeks to decriminalize abortion. In this way, it only takes a majority of the Senate for the southern country to become the fourth in Latin America (plus Mexico City) to legalize this procedure.

The bill presented by President Alberto Fernández, which was a campaign promise, was approved by 131 votes in favor, 117 against and 6 abstentions.

In 2018, during the term of conservative Mauricio Macri, a similar initiative had already passed from the Chamber to the Senate, where it would end up sinking with 38 votes against, 31 in favor, and one abstention.


The Caribbean island was the pioneer in the entire continent in legalizing and allowing free abortion. Since 1965, the service is free and legal for all its inhabitants.


Abortion has been allowed since October 17, 2012, after a bill passed in Congress. Previously there were other attempts, but they had been vetoed by the presidency despite having majorities in the legislature.


In Colombia, abortion is decriminalized in only 3 circumstances: if the fetus was the product of rape, at risk of death of the mother, or malformation of the fetus. However, these three exceptions to a sentence were approved by the judicial branch and not by the legislature, so parliamentary majorities to be able to fully decriminalize seems far away.

Since October there is a lawsuit filed by various NGOs and pro-abortion activists that is in the process of ruling in the Constitutional Court.


Being a federalist country, each state governs its own law. Currently, only in Mexico City and in the state of Oaxaca is it legal to abort up to 12 weeks of gestation. In the rest of the states, the causes in which this practice is decriminalized vary. However, in all it is allowed after rape.


Something similar to Colombia also happens in the southern country. Since 2017, the Constitutional Court of Chile approved the decriminalization of abortion on the same 3 grounds.

Ecuador and Peru

These Andean countries only allow abortion if it is the only alternative to save the life of the mother or to avoid serious and permanent damage to her health.

In Peru, for example, as indicated by the organization Informa y Decide: "In cases in which the pregnancy is the result of a sexual violation outside of marriage or when there is a possibility that the fetus has physical or mental defects, there is an attenuation of the penalty but it is not considered legal. "

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Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and El Salvador

They are the only countries in all Latin America countries that still have criminalized abortion in any circumstance. People found guilty of aborting or performing abortions can face penalties of up to 2 to 8 years. However, in El Salvador there was an emblematic case in which a woman was sentenced to 40 years for "homicide."

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