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A “Witch Hunt Against Poor Women”: Across the Americas, Abortion Laws Are Harming Health And Security

In 2011, Maria Teresa Rivera woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed. Earlier that day, suffering stomach cramps, she had gone to the latrine in her backyard and collapsed. Her mother-in-law had found her, lying in a pool of blood, and rushed her to the hospital.

The 27-year-old Salvadoran garment worker and single mother had miscarried without ever knowing she was pregnant. But when she regained consciousness, she learned that hospital staff had suspected her of inducing an abortion and reported her to the police. The next day, still nauseated and feverish, she was moved to a jail cell. A few months later, a judge sentenced her to the maximum punishment for murder: 40 years in prison.

Maria Teresa is not alone. Across the Americas, restrictive reproductive rights laws are harming women’s health and security, offering a picture of what the United States could look like if Donald Trump’s administration has its way. Strict statutes paired with inequality and gen- eralized violence strip women of control over their bodies and impede access to health care, especially for those in the poorest communities. “The women who are already in vulnerable situations are always going to suffer the most,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, an attorney and programs specialist for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global advocacy group based in New York City. “The discrepancies in the level of access are really just outrageous, and it becomes even more worrisome when it comes to access to reproductive health services.”

Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2016/2017 issue of the World Policy Journal written and edited entirely by female foreign policy experts in collaboration with Foreign Policy Interrupted. This article is currently locked behind a paywall by the publisher, Duke University Press, and is only accessible with a subscription.

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