by Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
Representatives of 38 Latin American and Caribbean countries have signed onto a document that includes language urging the region to, “Ensure … the availability of safe, good-quality abortion services for women with unwanted and unaccepted pregnancies.”
The document, titled the “Montevideo Consensus,” calls on governments that ban abortion “to consider amending their laws … relating to the voluntary termination of pregnancy in order to protect the lives and health of women and adolescent girls.”
The representatives met from August 12th to the 15th in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, with the stated purpose of examining the progress of the UN Cairo Conference on Population and Development held in 1994.
The document also declares that countries should “guarantee universal access to assisted fertility treatments,” and the “access to a wide range of culturally relevant, scientifically sound modern contraceptive methods, including emergency oral contraception.”
Ensuring “the effective implementation from early childhood of comprehensive sexuality education programs,” is also among the agreements the participants reached.
The meeting was organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the Uruguayan government with support from the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). It also brought together 24 regional and international agencies and 260 non-governmental organizations.
Over 800 participants attended the meeting, which made it one of the largest intergovernmental conferences in recent years in the region, according to ECLAC.
Daphne Cuevas, of the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network, told the press that the reaction to the conference’s outcome was “jubilation.”
“We feminists came here with a series of clearly outlined proposals that were taken up integrally by the governments, which sent out a strong signal to the world that in Latin America, women’s rights are on the rise,” said the activist.
Another one of the document’s ‘achievements’ was the recognition of sexual rights and reproductive rights as separate concepts.
It says countries need to: “Promote, protect and guarantee sexual health and rights and reproductive rights in order to contribute to the fulfillment of persons and to social justice in a society free from all forms of discrimination and violence.”
“We took another step forward by recognizing them separately,” said Cuevas. “What was approved 20 years ago in Cairo referred to reproductive, but not sexual, rights.”
In this matter the document also says governments should: “broaden the access available to men, including boys, adolescents and young men, to sexual and reproductive health-related information, counseling and services.”
Such measures, according to the Consensus, are being taken because the countries are “concerned at the high rates of maternal mortality, due largely to difficulties in obtaining access to proper sexual health and reproductive health services or to unsafe abortions, and aware that some experiences in the region have demonstrated that the penalization of abortion leads to higher rates of maternal mortality.”
Chile, however, where abortion is illegal without exception, holds the lowest maternal mortality rate in Latin America, a fact that was not mentioned in the Consensus.
The document also contains language that could be used to force homosexual “marriage” on the signatories, claiming that it is necessary to “promote policies that enable persons to exercise their sexual rights, which embrace the right to a safe and full sex life, as well as the right to take free, informed, voluntary and responsible decisions on their sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity, without coercion, discrimination or violence, and that guarantee the right to information and the means necessary for their sexual health and reproductive health.”
In what seems a direct address to Costa Rica, the document also reads: “a secular State is one of the elements fundamental to the full exercise of human rights, the deepening of democracy and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.”
Costa Rica is the last and only confessional state in Latin America, as it holds the Catholic faith as official in its Constitution.
The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has recently started putting pressure on the country to change its laws and allow abortion, In vitro fertilization, the morning-after pill and same-sex ‘marriages’. The country may face trial if it does not comply with these impositions.
Article submitted by: Veronica Coffin