Abortion in Latin America: changes in practice, growing conflict, and recent policy developments

Stud Fam Plann. 2011 Sep;42(3):199-220. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4465.2011.00282.x.


Latin America is undergoing profound social, economic, political, demographic, and epidemiologic change. Reproductive health indicators have generally improved over the past two decades, but most pregnancies are still unintended and more than 4 million are terminated annually. Clandestine abortions necessitated by restrictive legal and social structures cause more than 1,000 deaths and 500,000 hospitalizations per year, primarily among poor and marginalized women. Abortions are becoming safer and less frequent, however, as a consequence of increased modern contraceptive use, misoprostol adoption, emergency contraception availability, and postabortion care provision, notwithstanding many impediments to these changes. Advocacy and conflict over abortion have grown. The contested policy shifts include Mexico City's 2007 legalization of first-trimester abortion. Drawing on numerous sources of evidence, this article provides a regional analysis of the rapidly changing practice and context of abortion in Latin America, and examines emerging issues, legal and policy developments, and contrasting country situations.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion Applicants* / classification
  • Abortion Applicants* / education
  • Abortion, Criminal / prevention & control
  • Abortion, Criminal / statistics & numerical data
  • Abortion, Induced / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aftercare
  • Contraception, Postcoital / methods
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Planning Policy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Family Planning Policy* / trends
  • Family Planning Services* / methods
  • Family Planning Services* / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Humans
  • Latin America / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care
  • Reproductive Medicine / standards
  • Reproductive Medicine / trends
  • Sex Education / organization & administration*