Oct. 25, 2017 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—the principal human rights body for the Americas—released a statement that underscores how laws criminalizing abortion in all circumstances lead to human rights violations.

The IACHR statement touches on how restrictive abortion laws have a negative impact on women’s dignity, their rights to health, life, personal integrity, and their right to live free from violence and discrimination.

The Commission expressed that States have a fundamental obligation to ensure timely and adequate access to health services that only women, female adolescents, and girls need because of their sex/gender and reproductive function, free from all forms of discrimination and violence, in accordance with existing international commitments on gender equality.

Said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center:

“The criminalization of abortion oppresses and stigmatizes women and girls.

“We commend the IACHR Rapporteurs for recognizing that all women and girls deserve to exercise their fundamental reproductive rights.

“We hope the IACHR continues to urge states to create meaningful policies that protect sexual and reproductive rights.

Sexual violence is widespread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The region has some of the most restrictive policies against abortion in the world and as a result, it has the highest rates of unsafe abortions with the exception of East Africa. 12% of maternal deaths are linked to unsafe abortions. El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Surinam, Haiti and Nicaragua continue to criminalize abortion-even when the life and health of the women are in danger- putting women and girls at unnecessary risk.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked to expose the consequences that blanket abortion bans have on the lives of women. In 2015, together with the Agrupación Ciudadana, the Center filed a case on behalf of nine women who had serious pregnancy complications and are now in prison due to the severe enforcement of El Salvador’s absolute abortion ban. The Commission also admitted the case of Manuela, another Salvadoran woman wrongfully imprisoned after having an obstetric emergency who later died from untreated Hodgkin’s lymphoma in prison.

In May 2017 the Commission hosted a hearing on the status of Chile’s abortion law reform, where the Center for Reproductive Rights, Miles Chile and Isabel Allende Foundation, testified before the Commission to call on Chile to prioritize passage of the abortion bill. In August this year, Chile’s Constitutional Tribunal voted 6 to 4 to pass an abortion bill that will allow women to access safe and legal abortion services in cases of life-endangerment, rape, and fatal fetal impairments.

The Center has also worked on cases in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, and Costa Rica to guarantee women’s rights in the region. Today, the Center, alongside other international and regional organizations, held a hearing on sexual violence against girls and lack of access to reproductive care.