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This woman is a part of a clandestine network of "abortion doulas" in Chile.Liam Miller / Pudumedia.com
This woman is a part of a clandestine network of "abortion doulas" in Chile.Liam Miller / Pudumedia.com

The right to abortion does not quarantine

The health crisis in Latin America caused by COVID-19 has made access to safe abortion difficult for millions of women.

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Even in countries where abortion is legalized for some cases such as abuse or where the survival of the mother is compromised, access to safe abortion has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.

On the one hand, fear of contagion in hospitals has prevented women who could have taken refuge in legal grounds for seeking an abortion from doing so, and on the other hand, rates of mistreatment and abuse within families have increased because quarantines have forced thousands of women to remain locked up with their abusers.

To this extent, quarantine has not stopped some of the forms of violence that women regularly face, neither pregnancies nor, therefore, the need for abortion.

In Latin America there are multiple sorority groups, abortion doulas, who support and guide other women to get safe abortions from their homes. Since abortion is not legal for all causes - in South America it is only legal in Uruguay - these sorority groups also help in obtaining the necessary medicines to perform the procedures.

They do so because countries' legislation is not broad enough to protect women on all grounds - maternal mortality rates are systematically reduced to the extent that safe, legal abortion is more easily accessible - because current pandemic conditions make it difficult to access abortion even in cases where it would be legal, and because even when women are legally entitled to abortion, they often encounter obstacles to doing so such as doctors declaring conscientious objections and refusing to do so.

These groups of doulas, Las Parceras (Colombia), Con Las Amigas and En La Casa (Chile), Socorristas en Red (Argentina), Fondo María MX (Mexico), Las Comadres (Ecuador), have openly declared in a coordinated manner that abortion rights are not quarantined in Latin America and have continued to publicize their unconditional willingness to support women who need them.

The main challenge, a Chilean doula told NBC News on condition of anonymity, is that the pandemic has cut off the distribution chains - often clandestine - with which they had access to the necessary medicines and it will not be long before they run out of supplies. 

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