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The Politics of Women's Health

In Translation: Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean

The "In Translation" sidebars in the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves highlight the work of our global partners who develop health resources based on Our Bodies, Ourselves for their own communities.
 ncnv cover   Group: A collaboration of nineteen women’s organizations in the Americas and Caribbean

Country: Coordinated in the United States

Resource: Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas (Our Bodies, Our Lives), a Spanish adaptation of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and peer health educator training materials for the Americas and Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the most restrictive abortion policies in the world. El Salvador, Chile, and Nicaragua, for example, do not allow abortions under any circumstance. Women seeking care after a miscarriage may be interrogated first for possible prosecution for suspected abortion, and some states in Mexico have begun such prosecutions. Providers in Costa Rica can be sent to prison.

While most other countries make allowances in certain situations (to save a woman’s life or health, or in cases where pregnancy is the result of rape), the ideology and power of the Catholic Church hierarchy, as well as legal, judicial, and medical obstacles, make it nearly impossible to talk about abortion or to seek care. Despite these restrictions, these regions have some of the highest rates of abortion worldwide. Most of the abortions are unsafe, according to the nonprofit organization Ipas, and account for about one out of nine maternal deaths.

The authors of Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas, the Spanish-language cultural adaptation of Our Bodies, Ourselves, chose to speak directly to the ethical and spiritual dimensions of abortion decisions in ways that would address Catholic women’s concerns. They drew on the work of Catholics for Choice, which courageously challenges church doctrine by placing a woman’s decision on abortion within the context of her sacred responsibility for life—emphasizing a woman’s right and moral agency to make these difficult decisions, while recognizing that many women throughout the world would rather risk their lives than bear a child they cannot care for. The book also draws heavily from the rich bonds that Latin American women have with their families and communities, voicing the culturally harmonious relational message "If you don’t care for yourself, you can’t take care of others."

Nineteen women’s organizations representing twelve countries worked together to promote personal health while mobilizing for social change and to create a resource that inspires and guides Latinas throughout the Americas. The translation and topics, including abortion and HIV/AIDS, reflect enormous differences in social and economic realities and access to care across Latin America. To reach Latina women and girls in the Caribbean, Central and South America, as well as those living entre mundos—between worlds—in the United States, Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas emphasizes engagement in a critical analysis of social, economic, political, and religious issues affecting women and girls every day. Additionally, it contextualizes women’s ability to access timely, safe, and legal abortion care within other areas of economic, educational, and social life that leave them vulnerable to exploitation. It offers a window into the stories and social movements of women and girls throughout this region and the world, as they strive for—and achieve—equality and wellness.

Excerpted from the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. © 2011, Boston Women's Health Book Collective. You can read other "In Translation" sidebars about women's groups who are adapting Our Bodies, Ourselves and creating resources to advance the health and human rights of women and girls in their countries. Click here to read more about NCNV.


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