Think American abortion politics are bad? Millions of people have it worse


Very few countries in the Americas share the United States’ relatively liberal abortion laws. Say what you will about the GOP infringing on our reproductive rights, but we have things pretty good in comparison to a lot of our American neighbors. Of the 34 countries in Latin America, 18 allow abortion in cases other than the strict “rape, incest, or threat to the woman’s life.” In 6 of the remaining countries, abortion is completely illegal, with no provisions for rape, or threat to the woman’s life. One of those countries is Haiti.

The Miami Herald recently reported on the “abortion crisis” in Haiti, a country with the highest rate of unintended pregnancies and maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere. That mortality rate includes those who die from abortion complications, which the Haitian health ministry has roughly estimated at 20-30% of maternal deaths.

Those of us living in the U.S. are certainly no stranger to the fight for abortion rights. What with the recent battle in New MexicoIndiana and now Michigan, abortion is so inaccessible for so many people that it seems as if the procedure has been made all but illegal. But during the #SecretLivesofFeministas twitter chat I was moved by FeministaCansada’s comment that, living in Brazil, she is envious of more developed countries where abortion is legal and safe. I too often take for granted the fact that when/if someone living in the U.S. is able to access a legal abortion, at least they are not risking their safety by undergoing the procedure.

Living in Brazil a couple of years ago, I remember being shocked when I realized that I no longer had that privilege–that if something went wrong, if a condom broke or I missed a pill, there would be no Planned Parenthood. Just parenthood.

Certainly there are ways to get abortions in Brazil. During my time there, close friends got the procedure, and because they had enough financial capital, they were able to get what seemed to be safe health care. One of them had to wait in a car for hours while the police collected their bribe money. Another could not be accompanied by her partner into the clinic. He waited outside for an hour or so, unsure of just how safe she was.

But they were lucky. They had a friend of a friend who knew where to go, a relative who could lend them the money, a partner who could drive them home. Plenty of other women had to find a dirtier, smaller, cheaper “clinic,” one that wouldn’t be able to bribe the police if they arrived mid-procedure. Many of those women found themselves days later in the maternal wards of hospitals, having doctors clean up after the mess someone else had left of their uterus.

Apparently, the situation is only worse in Haiti. 

“Marie said she was forced to wait until her 16th week to abort because she didn’t have the $20 the “doctor” charged. If Marie had the money, she could have spared herself the punishing ordeal. Qualified doctors charge at least $300 to secretly do the procedures in their private clinics, or even a hospital.

Reading this article today I felt lucky, but mostly in awe. In awe of how far we have come, how far the U.S. has regressed, and how far the global reproductive justice movement has to go. Because if so many women living around me in my own state can’t get the abortion care they need, then we are not done. And if our cousins, friends, and family living south of la frontera can’t even speak freely about the care they need, then our work has just begun.

Image source.


Juliana‘s dream is to become fluent in Haitian Creole.

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

Read more about Juliana

Join the Conversation