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Crossposted with permission from palabra

It is historic, as much as the abolition of slavery.” The euphoric expression of Sara Larín, president of the VIDA (Life) Foundation of El Salvador, was highlighted in bold by the editors of the Catholic Press Agency, or ACI Prensa in Spanish. ACI Prensa included in its statement the overwhelming joy that anti-abortion rights organizations in Latin America feel after the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade, revoking the constitutional guarantee to abortion. ACI Prensa also included the opinion of Elisa Lanza Sevilla, president of the Bolivian Platform for Life and Family. She is certain that the “silent holocaust” will end and “the expansion of the legalization of abortion in the world will be stopped.”

Argentine legislator Francisco Sánchez joins this cause. He represents a province more than 5,400 miles from Washington, D.C., where on June 24 six high court justices decided to change the law that allowed legal abortion. Sánchez proclaimed before his 36,000 followers on Twitter the need to repeal the "right to abortion" in his country, even though he spelled it wrong and used the English word to paddle.

solidarity tweet

Fortunately for those of us who are in favor of women having options to decide whether or not they want to interrupt an unwanted pregnancy, it is quite likely that the conservative wave unleashed in the world will not achieve its goal.

Angie Contreras, spokesperson for the organization Libres y Vivas (Free and Alive) in Mexico, is blunt in pointing out that “in Mexico, there will be no going back in legislation that legalizes abortion.” The difference is essential, because in the United States the Roe vs. Wade ruling, issued almost half a century ago, protected the right to privacy of women in their medical care. Roe vs. Wade did not enshrine the right to abortion but defined that the choice to continue or interrupt a pregnancy is made by each woman in consultation with her doctor. This decision is now regulated by each state. In contrast, feminist movements in Latin America have gradually managed to approve abortion as a right of women and any pregnant person.

For Ecuadoran Virginia Gómez de la Torre, director of the Desafío (Defy) Foundation, “the hardest thing is the symbolic blow.” She highlights how important the United States is as a generator of icons for a large part of the Latin American population. In terms of rights in particular, the decriminalization of abortion almost 50 years ago was a fundamental step and an aspirational achievement that inspired many feminists in the region and what led to fully develop progress in this area several decades later. In fact, in the last 25 years, more than 50 countries worldwide have passed legislation to allow safe abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Only four countries have gone backward. “Today the leadership turns toward Latin America,” says de la Torre, "and we will have to support the women of the United States.”Multi-group meeting of straight women, lesbians, transexuals, and trans in La Plata, Argentina, October 2019. 

Multi-group meeting of straight women, lesbians, transexuals, and trans in La Plata, Argentina, October 2019. Photo by Carla Peverelli for palabra

Multi-group meeting of straight women, lesbians, transexuals, and trans in La Plata, Argentina, October 2019. Photo by Carla Peverelli for palabra

The demonstrations have not been long in coming. In several countries, it’s been the green wave. The women wear their green scarves, which represent the fight for legal and safe abortions. They march outside U.S. embassies to let those six conservative justices know that American women are not alone.

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For Marta Alanís, founder of the 30-year-old organization Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholic Women for the Right to Choose) in Argentina, success will lie in creating political alliances that strengthen the movement. She remembers that in Argentina they started with 70 allied organizations, and by the time they achieved decriminalization of abortion there were more than 750 organizations involved in the cause. “You have to be patient, very patient.” She says that in the 16 years of struggle, they have had tense moments, but it is crucial to have coherent and lucid leaders who promote debate of the abortion issue across all platforms. “It is essential that the discussion is not exclusive to feminist movements.” Alanís is moved when she remembers that in Argentina the green fabric has run out because of the large numbers of scarves that women made. 

And no doubt we will need a lot of green cloth to cover the women of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti where there are no exceptions for interrupting a pregnancy, and prison is the likely outcome for women with obstetric emergencies. 

Latin American Solidarity

Two sisters face each other during the June 30, 2018 demonstration in front of the Argentine Congress. One wears a green scarf for legal and safe abortions while the other has an orange one that pushes for a separation of church and state. 

We will also need a lot of green cloth to silence the stigmatizing discourse that has been strengthened by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court and that will spread down the map, accusing women of being murderers for making choices about their bodies and their futures.

Those accusations are perfectly greased by the disinformation machinery of the world’s far-right. According to the Equis organization, which monitors disinformation in Hispanic media, and from the data verification group Factchequeado.com, among the main messages they promote is that abortion procedures involve cruelly tearing fully formed babies into little pieces. They also disseminate unreliable and unsupported data, such as that with the approval of laws that decriminalize abortion the number of women who undergo one will substantially increase. Or that the mortality of women who undergo unsafe abortions is minimal.A march in La Plata, Argentina, supporting the legalization of abortion. December 4, 2020. 

Latin American Solidarity

A march in La Plata, Argentina, supporting the legalization of abortion. December 4, 2020. 

The campaigns pushed by religious groups and disinformation bots will undoubtedly sharpen the narrative that condemns women to resign themselves to patriarchal designs. Certainly, legal claims against clinics that offer obstetric services will also increase. While in many countries abortion has been legalized for various reasons, Brenda Gutiérrez of the María Fund in Mexico points out how complex it is to achieve social decriminalization. She acknowledges that there is a long way to go for acceptance beyond legality. “Even among those of us who work on abortion issues, there is a lot of stigma” and not to mention the medical personnel who must provide the services.

Ultra-conservative influencers such as the Argentine writer and political scientist Agustín Laje contribute to this narrative. The YouTube video uploaded the day after the ruling in the U.S. court reached a quarter of a million views in a few days. In addition to his usual anti-rights rhetoric, he launches a political wedge on the importance of “having real right-wing politicians like Donald Trump to generate real changes.”

Changes that the feminist organizations of the Americas are not willing to allow and will fight alongside a strengthened global movement where rights, abuse, options pregnant people have, and solidarity are all openly discussed. A global movement where support networks are strengthened, and where an exchange of medications and donations could help those who have limited rights due to where they live or limited access to information and health care. Latin America prepares its green wave of solidarity and lets U.S. women know that they are not alone.