Argentina: Historic opportunity to legalize abortion

April 26, 2018
Many thanks to Mercedes Cavallo, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, for updating REPROHEALTHLAW subscribers about current developments in her home country of Argentina, based on the Opinion piece she published in Clarin, a Spanish periodical, on March 10, 2018. Op-ed  in Spanish

In Argentina, since 1921, abortion is only legal when the health or life of the woman is in danger, or when the pregnancy results from rape. Although efforts to guarantee access to legal abortion under these three grounds were implemented in the last decade, estimates show that between 370,000 and 520,000 clandestine abortions are performed annually in Argentina. Unsafe illegal abortion has been the leading cause of maternal morality for the past 30 years, amounting to an annual average of 47 maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion.
This year, after six failed attempts to make the Congress debate a bill to decriminalize and legalize abortion on request until the 14th week of gestation, a bill is finally being debated. During April and May 2018, public hearings are being held, where speakers in favour and against the bill present their viewpoints before legislators. After that, the bill will be formally debated in Congress. Hopefully, by the end of the year, Argentina will join the group of countries that respect reproductive and sexual rights.

In her Opinion piece entitled “Aborto legal, oportunidad histórica,” Mercedes Cavallo cogently argues that the parliamentary debate should not hinge on personal opinions about the morality of the practice. Instead the Argentine Congress should focus on whether abortion should remain criminalized or not. Given the practical absurdity of prosecuting 370,000 to 520,000 women and their helpers as criminals every year, and the State’s longstanding commitments to non-discrimination and gender equality under international law, she argues that Argentina should decriminalize abortion under 14 weeks’ gestation to honor the republican principle of equality.

The Opinion piece by Mercedes Cavallo, published in Clarin, March 10, 2018 is online here in Spanish.

An updated Spanish version is online here. Revised Spanish op-ed. 



Reproductive Autonomy of Women and Girls under the Disabilities Convention

March 30, 2018

Congratulations to Prof. Charles Ngwena of the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa, whose valuable article has recently been published in the Ethical and Legal Issues section of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. We are pleased to circulate the following abstract:

Reproductive Autonomy of Women and Girls under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,”  by Prof. Charles Ngwena, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 140.1 (Jan. 2018):128-133PDF online for 12 months.          Submitted text at SSRN

Women and girls with disabilities have historically been denied the freedom to make their own choices in matters relating to their reproduction. In the healthcare sector they experience multiple discriminatory practices. Women and girls with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable to coerced or forced medical interventions. The present article considers the contribution the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities makes towards affirming the rights of women and girls with disabilities to enjoy reproductive autonomy, including autonomy related to reproductivehealth, on an equal basis with individuals without disabilities. The Convention is paradigm-setting in its maximal approach to affirming the rights of  individuals with disabilities to make autonomous choices under conditions of equality and non-discrimination.  The Convention is the first human rights treaty to clearly affirm that impairment of decision-making skills is not a justification for depriving a person with cognitive or intellectual disability of legal capacity.

Key words: Abortion; Disability; Equality; Legal capacity; Non-discrimination; Reasonable accommodation; Reproductive autonomy; Reproductive health

The published article is online in PDF at Wiley Library.
Full text, as submitted, is online at SSRN.
Ethical and Legal Issues in Reproductive Health: 80 other concise articles.

Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

“Theorizing Time in Abortion Law” by Joanna N. Erdman

June 29, 2017

Congratulations and thanks to Alicia Ely Yamin, Paola Bergallo, and Marge Berer, guest editors of the Health and Human Rights Journal, issue 19.1,  for their wide-ranging special section on “Abortion and Human Rights” (Table of Contents below), including this article by Prof. Joanna Erdman, MacBain Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law:

Joanna N. Erdman, “Theorizing Time in Abortion Law and Human Rights,” Health and Human Rights 19.1 (June 2017): 29-40. HTML | PDF

The legal regulation of abortion by gestational age, or length of pregnancy, is a relatively undertheorized dimension of abortion and human rights. Yet struggles over time in abortion law, and its competing representations and meanings, are ultimately struggles over ethical and political values, authority and power, the very stakes that human rights on abortion engage. This article focuses on three struggles over time in abortion and human rights law: those related to morality, health, and justice. With respect to morality, the article concludes that collective faith and trust should be placed in the moral judgment of those most affected by the passage of time in pregnancy and by later abortion—pregnant women. With respect to health, abortion law as health regulation should be evidence-based to counter the stigma of later abortion, which leads to overregulation and access barriers. With respect to justice, in recognizing that there will always be a need for abortion services later in pregnancy, such services should be safe, legal, and accessible without hardship or risk.  At the same time, justice must address the structural conditions of women’s capacity to make timely decisions about abortion, and to access abortion services early in pregnancy.

“Abortion and Human Rights” section in Health and Human Rights Journal 19.1:
Contents page.

Narratives of Essentialism and Exceptionalism: The Challenges and Possibilities of Using Human Rights to Improve Access to Safe AbortionAlicia Ely Yamin and Paola Bergallo  HTML | PDF

Abortion Law and Policy Around the World: In Search of Decriminalization  (Discussion) by Marge Berer   HTML | PDF

Theorizing Time in Abortion Law and Human Rights,   Joanna N. Erdman

The Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health Care and Anti-Abortion Activism: Examples from Latin America,  Lynn M. Morgan   HTML | PDF

Regulation of Conscientious Objection to Abortion: An International Comparative Multiple-Case Study,  Wendy Chavkin, Laurel Swerdlow, and Jocelyn Fifield  HTML | PDF

The Role of International Human Rights Norms in the Liberalization of Abortion Laws Globally, Johanna B. Fine, Katherine Mayall, and Lilian Sepúlveda   HTML | PDF

Pregnancy and the 40-Year Prison Sentence: How “Abortion is Murder” Became Institutionalized in the Salvadoran Judicial System,  Jocelyn Viterna and Jose Santos Guardado Bautista   HTML | PDF

Pregnancies and Fetal Anomalies Incompatible with Life in Chile: Arguments and Experiences in Advocating for Legal Reform,  Lidia Casas and Lieta Vivaldi   HTML | PDF

Legal Knowledge as a Tool for Social Change: La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres as an Expert on Colombian Abortion Law, Ana Cristina González Vélez and Isabel Cristina Jaramillo   HTML | PDF

The Battle Over Abortion Rights in Brazil’s State Arenas, 1995-2006, by Marta Rodriguez De Assis Machado and Débora Alves Maciel    HTML | PDF

Abortion Rights Legal Mobilization in the Peruvian Media, 1990–2015, by Camila Gianella   HTML | PDF

The Moderating Influence of International Courts on Social Movements: Evidence from the IVF Case Against Costa Rica, by Julieta Lemaitre and Rachel Sieder   HTML | PDF

Why is a “Good Abortion Law” Not Enough? The Case of Estonia,  by Liiri Oja   HTML | PDF

Macro- and Micro-Political Vernaculizations of Rights: Human Rights and Abortion Discourses in Northern Ireland  by Claire Pierson and Fiona Bloomer  HTML | PDF

Exploring Legal Restrictions, Regulatory Reform, and Geographic Disparities in Abortion Access in Thailand  by Grady Arnott, Grace Sheehy, Orawee Chinthakanan, and Angel M. Foster    HTML | PDF

Decriminalization and Women’s Access to Abortion in Australia, by Barbara Baird   HTML | PDF

Australia: Abortion and Human Rights, by Ronli Sifris and Suzanne Belton   HTML | PDF

PERSPECTIVE Abortion Care in Nepal, 15 Years after Legalization: Gaps in Access, Equity, and Quality, by Wan-Ju Wu, Sheela Maru, Kiran Regmi, and Indira Basnett   HTML | PDF


The REPROHEALTHLAW Blog is compiled by the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Canada,  reprohealth*law at and @reprohealthlaw.   For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here.
TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription

Constitutional Developments in Latin American Abortion Law

November 24, 2016

Congratulations to two Argentine scholars,  Paola Bergallo and Agustina Ramón Michel, who recently co-authored a useful article in the Legal and Ethical Issues section of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Paola Bergallo and Agustina Ramón Michel, “Constitutional Developments in Latin American Abortion Law,”  International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 135 (2016) 228–231.   PDF online here.

Abstract: For most of the 20th century, restrictive abortion laws were in place in continental Latin America. In recent years, reforms have caused a liberalizing shift, supported by constitutional decisions of the countries’ high courts. The present article offers an overview of the turn toward more liberal rules and the resolution of abortion disputes by reference to national constitutions. For such purpose, the main legal changes of abortion laws in the last decade are first surveyed. Landmark decisions of the high courts of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico are then analyzed. It is shown that courts have accepted the need to balance interests and competing rights to ground less restrictive laws. In doing so, they have articulated limits to protection of fetal interests, and basic ideas of women’s dignity, autonomy, and equality. The process of constitutionalization has only just begun. Constitutional judgments are not the last word, but they are important contributions in reinforcing the legality of abortion.   Full text online through SSRN

Further reading

“Abortion,” by Paola Bergallo & Agustina Ramón Michel, Chapter 3 in  The Latin American casebook: Courts, constitutions and rights, ed. Juan F. Gonzalez-Bertomeu and Roberto Gargarella (Routledge, 2016).  Latin American casebook .

“The Constititutionalization of Abortion,” by Reva Siegel, in Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) 13-35.  English bookLibro en español.

La constitucionalización del aborto y sus encuadres en las altas cortes de América Latina,por Paola Bergallo & Agustina Ramón Michel, “constitucionalización,”

“Interpretando derechos: La otra legalización del aborto en América Latina.” por Paola Bergallo, Capitulo 7 en Debates y Reflexiones en torno a la despenalización del aborto en Chile, Lidia Casas y Delfina Lawson. Ediciones Lon, Santiago de Chile, 2016. “Interpretando”,    Debates y Reflexiones – PDF Book .

SUBSCRIBE TO REPROHEALTHLAW: To receive these updates monthly by email, enter your address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription. 



Peru: Rights-based Governance of Reproductive Health Services

May 12, 2016

Congratulations to Jeannie Samuel, Ph.D., who recently defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Struggling With the State: Rights-Based Governance of Reproductive Health Services in Puno, Peru by Jeannie Samuel, Ph.D. dissertation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Canada, 2015.

This dissertation explores the complex process of how socially excluded women carry out rights-based governance in state-operated health facilities. It addresses a central tension: how can marginalized actors exercise a governance influence over institutions that have systemically excluded them? The study examines the efforts of a group of Quechua-speaking indigenous women in the southern Peruvian Andes who act as citizen monitors of their reproductive health services. In a country where profound inequalities are embedded in the health care system, the monitors (aided by a network of strategic allies) seek to combat abuse and strengthen health service provision. Key to their governance strategy is the use of a human rights-based approach to health, intended to influence monitors’ power by repositioning them as rights holders.

Theoretically, the dissertation draws on feminist political economy to examine the emergence of reproductive health care as a site of struggle between civil society and the state in Puno, Peru since the 1990s. It examines the monitoring initiative in Puno as an example of ongoing struggles with the state for the provision of quality reproductive health care. Methodologically, it uses institutional ethnography to link the work of citizen monitors with broader social, political and economic forces that shape their governance efforts.

The study’s findings suggest that human rights-based approaches can help monitors to exercise power in governance struggles. Citizen monitoring in Puno has produced some important gains, including curbing everyday injustices such as discriminatory treatment and illegal fees in health facilities. Monitors have been less effective at influencing other types of systemic problems, such as understaffing. The initiative has created opportunities for hands-on learning and the creation of new kinds of alliances. More broadly, the study suggests that rights-based governance can contribute to the democratization of reproductive health service delivery and the promotion of inclusive citizenship.


Abstracts of theses by Graduates of our International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program are online here.




Decisions, Conferences, Fellowships, Resources and Jobs

July 2, 2013

July 2, 2013


Canada: R v Levkovic  2013 SCC 25  Supreme Court, 3 May 2013, upheld the criminal law prohibiting disposing of dead body of child with intent to conceal its delivery whether child died before, during or after birth.
The law does not breach Charter rights.   Full text online.

Gender Justice Uncovered Awards 2013:  highlight Best and Worst decisions re gender equality.  Women’s Link Worldwide.

Best Decisions in the past year:

Mensah v. Mensah (Supreme Court of Ghana)  – equal distribution of assets at divorce.  Details here.

P. & S.  v. Poland – European Court of Human Rights found human rights violations regarding delayed abortion for raped girl.  Details here.     Further details and links.

Mmusi vs. Ramantele – The High Court of Botswana abolished a traditional property law and ruled that women equal right of inheritance  Details here.


Conference on Rights of Women in Africa, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa.  Topics include:  Women and HIV, Access to Safe abortion, Women’s Repro Rights & role of resources, and Women’s Sexual rights   Travel & accommodation funding for authors of accepted papers. Submit abstracts by July 31, 2013.   Details here.

“Derecho a la vida: un dialogo sobre justicia, igualdad de genero y derechos reproductivos en America Latina.” Third Latin American Legal Congress on Reproductive Rights, Cuernavaca, Morelos – Mexico,
October 14-16, 2013. Conference website.


CIHR Graduate Fellowships in Health Law, Ethics and Policy
– for international and Canadian applicants pursuing a full-time master’s or doctoral degree in 2014-2015 at one of our four affiliated Canadian law schools.  Applicants must be accepted into the graduate program at any of following law schools:
Faculté de droit de l’Université de Sherbrooke
Faculty of Law, University of Alberta
Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Apply by March 2014.  Fellowship information.


“Abortion and Conscientious Objection: The New Battleground”  by Anne O’Rourke , Lachlan De Crespigny, and Amanda Pyman,  Working paper.

“Abortion Law Around the World: Progress and Pushback,” by Louise Finer and Johanna B. Fine, April 2013, Vol 103, No. 4 | American Journal of Public Health 103.4 (April 2013): 585-9. Article online for subscribersAbstract

[abortion] Human rights versus legal control over women’s reproductive self-determination, by Diya Uberoi and Maria de Bruyn, in Health and Human Rights 15.1 (June 2013): 161- 174.  Article online.

[abortion ] Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses, by Bonnie Steinbock [pro-choice],  Oxford University Press, 2011, 2nd edition, 327 pages.
–Reviewed by Anna Smajdor in 21.2 Medical Law Review, June 2013: 327-335.  Academic subscribers click here.

[abortion]  “Remaking the case for a woman’s right to choose” by
Ann Furedi, bpas Reproductive Review, 26 April 2013.  Article online. 

[abortion]  “Sex equality arguments for reproductive rights: their critical basis and evolving constitutional expression, by Reva B. Siegel, in Gender & Equality Law, ed.  Julie Goldscheid (Ashgate, 2013).  Book information.

[abortion] “The global reproductive health and rights agenda: opportunities and challenges for the future,” by Laura Reichenbach,  in Gender & Equality Law, ed.  Julie Goldscheid (Ashgate, 2013).
Book information.

[abortion – Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina] “When Abortion is a Crime:  The Threat to Vulnerable Women in Latin America,” by G. Kane, B. Galli and P. Skuster  (Chapel Hill, NC: Ipas, 2013) 20-page report.

[abortion] Chilean Study asserting that restrictive abortion laws do not impact abortion-related maternal mortality has fundamental flaws.  English report  is now available in Spanish:   Spanish report.

[abortion – India]   Unsafe abortion: why restricting abortive drugs only makes a bad situation worse, BMJ (31 May 2013) Article online.

[abortion – Ireland] “Impossible Floodgates and Unworkable Analogies in the Irish Abortion Debate” by Fiona De Londras and Laura Graham,  Irish Journal of Legal Studies, Forthcoming. Article online.

[abortion – Ireland  and Catholic health policy] Termination of pregnancy as emergency obstetric care: the interpretation of Catholic health policy and the consequences for pregnant women: An analysis of the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland and similar cases, by Marge Berer, Reproductive Health Matters 21(41), May 2013,  9-17.  Abstract online.

[abortion – Mexico City] “Evolving capacity and decision-making in practice: adolescents’ access to legal abortion services in Mexico City,” by Jessie Clyde, Jennifer Bain, Kelly Castagnaro, Marcela Rueda, Carrie Tatum, Katherine Watson, Reproductive Health Matters 21(41), May 2013,  167-175.  Abstract online.

[abortion – Nigeria] “The Nigerian Woman and Reproductive Autonomy: A View of Autonomy as Empowerment” by Aniaka Angel-Jacinta Oluchi.   [includes discussion of abortion law reform proposals and attempts]  Working paper.

[abortion – sex selection] “Bans on Sex-Selective Abortions: How Far is Too Far?”  by Annie Moskovian, Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2013. Article online.

[abortion – Rwanda] “Advocating for safe abortion in Rwanda: how young people and the personal stories of young women in prison brought about change,”  by Chantal Umuhoza, Barbara Oosters, Miranda van Reeuwijk and Ine Vanwesenbeeck. Reproductive Health Matters 21(41), May 2013,  49-56.  Abstract online.

“Effective Access to Justice Against State and Non State Actors in the Framework Convention on Global Health,” by Martin Hevia, with  Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, Health & Human Rights 13 (June 2013).  Article online.

Gender and Equality Law, ed.  Julie Goldscheid (Ashgate, 2013).   Introduction online at SSRN.     Table of contents online.

Gender and Sexuality in Latin America – Cases and Decisions, ed. Cristina Motta & Macarena Saez,  (Springer, 2013) 323 pages.
English book details.    Download original Spanish edition.

Gender Justice Observatory from Women’s Link Worldwide- useful database to explore cases and strategies.  Gender Justice Observatory.

[HIV/AIDS] “CrowdOutAIDS: crowdsourcing youth perspectives for action.” by Mikaela Hildebrand, Claudia Ahumada, Sharon Watson,  Reproductive Health Matters 21.41 (May 2013):  57-68).  Abstract.

“Human Rights and Maternal Health: Exploring the Effectiveness of the Alyne Decision” by Rebecca J. Cook,  American Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 41.1 (Spring 2013): 103-123.  Abstract online.   Original English PDF is now online (click Save icon here, then “Save PDF”). 
New Portuguese translation is online here. 

Reproductive Rights Around the World:   The complete global map of laws governing abortion and birth control.  by Chris Kirk, Charanya Krishnaswami, Katie Mesner-Hage, and Skye Nickalls, in Slate (May 2013):  Map online.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) database – presents examples of LGBT-friendly laws around the world.  Joint initiative by International Commission of Jurists and law students from the the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.   Access the database here.

Theses of graduates of our International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto – Abstracts online.

“Young People, Sex and Relationships” theme of Reproductive Health Matters 21(41), May 2013, includes papers from Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Nicaragua, Rwanda,
South Africa, Tanzania, UK, USA, and Zambia.  Details online.


Australia:  Abortion pill RU486 and three cancer drugs added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.  News report

Bolivia:  “After jailing women, Bolivia weighs legalizing abortion”
by Gillian Kane, The Atlantic,  June 24 2013  Article online.

El Salvador:  Woman Denied Abortion Has Caesarean Section instead.  Anencephalic baby dies within hours.  News report.
UN experts urged El Salvador to reconsider abortion legislation, citing Constititutional court ruling against ill woman.  UN press release.
Where illegal abortion leads: A case in El Salvador shows the danger of restricting abortion. Editorial by Nancy Northup 

Ireland:  Irish abortion law confusion a key factor in death of Savita Halappanavar, official report finds  News report.

Macedonia: Parliament restricts abortion beyond 10 weeks of pregnancy.  News report.

UN Security Council Resolution 2106 addressing sexual violence in armed conflict, explicitly calls for humanitarian care to provide “non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health.” Press release from the Global Justice Center.
Stop Rape press release.

Uruguay abortion law will not go to referendum. News report.
More details

US-focused news, resources, and legal developments are available on Repro Rights Prof Blog.  View or subscribe.


Advocacy Program Officer, Latin American office of Planned Parenthood Global, in Miami, Florida. prefers law degree, and/or policy-related backgrounds.   Job details.

Director of Pro Bono Services, Center for Reproductive Rights, New York, USA, Apply by July 19, 2013.  Job details.

Global Health: Science and Practice (GHSP) “Job Opportunities” website – free for recruiters and job seekers.  Online here.

Internship,  Legal Counsel At The Organización Nacional Indígena De Colombia, 6 month  internship, Lawyers Without Borders Canada. Bogota, Colombia.   Internship details.

Policy Associate, policy and advocacy for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. based at Ipas headquarters, Chapel Hill, N.C., USA.  Law degree preferred.  Apply immediately.  Job details.

Programme Manager, Sexual And Reproductive Health And Rights, Plan UK, in London, UK.  Apply by July 4, 2013.  Job details.

Links to other employers in the field of Reproductive and Sexual Health Law are online here.


Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here.

TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.