MEXICO CITY — Although Latin America has been the target of international pro-abortion and anti-family organizations for decades, its Catholic roots have generally held the region fast in its commitment to the culture of life.
The rights of the unborn and the traditional family continue to be protected under law. In some countries, resistance is stronger than ever.
However, in recent months, the region has shown signs of slipping that have begun to concern pro-life activists, who fear that key abortion-rights victories in some countries could easily spread to others, in a “domino effect” that would threaten the entire, overwhelmingly Catholic, region.
The most immediate concern facing the pro-life movement is Uruguay, whose Senate in December approved a bill eliminating criminal penalties for all abortions, legalizing abortion on demand during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and allowing abortions for eugenic reasons for the whole of the gestational period.
Approval of the bill, which is up for a vote in the country’s Chamber of Deputies in March, would represent the most devastating blow against the right to life ever experienced by the region, excepting communist Cuba and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
A similar bill was passed by the Uruguayan Congress in 2008, and its passage was only prevented by a veto by then-President Tabor Vasquez, who defied his own party to protect the right to life. His successor, also a socialist, has indicated that he will sign the law should it pass in March.
The Uruguayan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in its objections to the legislation filed with the National Congress, noted what is increasingly obvious throughout the region: International organizations have been expending vast resources in Latin America on behalf of the pro-abortion cause.
“Today, few people are ignorant of the existence of international interests in favor of imposing abortion on countries,” the bishops wrote. “Behind these pressures there are international foundations such as the Rockefeller organizations, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and many others.”
The influence of the international pro-abortion lobby has increased dramatically since 2010, when Human Rights Watch, which has been one of the most active pro-abortion pressure groups in Latin America, was given $100 million by financier George Soros.
Human Rights Watch, as well as Amnesty International, has been busy creating a public perception that “sexual and reproductive rights” include abortion, a concept found in no major human-rights convention and which has been rejected repeatedly by courts.
“Many experts consider Uruguay a testing ground for the implementation of anti-life and anti-family public policies,” noted Mario Rojas, director of Latin America coordination for Human Life International. “That is why so many international organizations have a high level of presence in the country. If new laws are approved that go against life and family values, then other South American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay) are next.”
“The situation is very serious,” wrote Brazilian pro-life activist Alberto Monteiro regarding the situation in Uruguay. “We are on the brink of the introduction of the culture of death in all of our continent.”
A prime target of pro-abortion “human rights” groups is Mexico, where the campaign to establish the killing of the unborn as a “right” has had more success than in any other Latin American country.
In the space of four years, Mexico has seen the legalization of abortion on demand and homosexual “marriage” in the nation’s capital, as well as the imposition of abortion-inducing drugs throughout the country in rape cases. It now stands at the brink of its own Roe v. Wade, which would overturn the protections provided to the unborn by all of Mexico’s 31 states.
Amnesty International scored a major hit against the country in 2009, when it successfully pressured the government of Felipe Calderon to revise a health regulation that would have permitted hospitals to perform abortions in cases of rape, a procedure that is exempt from punishment in some states.
After a campaign waged in the press by Amnesty, the Calderon administration capitulated and agreed to instead require hospitals to perform such abortions and to maintain abortionists on staff for that purpose.
An even bigger blow was struck against the right to life in September of last year, when the Supreme Court decided on a lawsuit to overturn 18 right-to-life amendments passed in recent years by Mexican states.
Although three years earlier the Supreme Court had ruled by a wide margin that the states had the right to prohibit abortions, a 7-4 majority now claimed that the amendments violate “human rights” — one vote short of overturning the amendments.
Piero Tozzi, a senior attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund specializing in Latin American issues, noted that the right to life could be lost in Mexico in only a few months when new appointments are made to the court.
“The danger for Mexico is that the two pro-life ministers or justices, Aguirre and Ortiz, are going to be stepping down in October. They’re term-limited,” he said.
The influence of the “human rights” approach is also being felt at the level of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, said Dan Zeidler, director of the U.S. office of the Latin American Alliance for the Family (ALAFA).
“There is a strong attempt within the OAS to redirect its historic protection of basic human rights, including the right to life, and replacing it with phony ‘rights’ like ‘reproductive rights,’ which some want to include abortion and LGBT ‘rights,’” he said.
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Other cracks in the pro-life foundations of Latin America have appeared recently, most importantly in Argentina, Colombia and Brazil, where both courts and legislatures have ceded ground in the face of anti-life and anti-family pressure.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court has struck down prohibitions on abortion in cases of rape, incest and fetal malformation and has even mandated abortionist “education” on “sexual and reproductive rights” for the nation’s schools.
In Brazil, the Supreme Federal Tribunal has recently imposed homosexual civil unions on the country, in violation of the explicit words of the constitution, and is moving towards the decriminalization of eugenic abortions in cases of fetal deformity. Argentina has created homosexual “marriage” through the legislative process.
Surprisingly, the strength of the pro-abortion and homosexualist positions in Latin America isn’t localized in countries run by the most extreme socialists, but rather ones that follow a more economically moderate, European concept of socialism, which Tozzi calls the “latex left.”
“It’s part of a trend in Latin America that often doesn’t get noticed: that there is the ‘latex left,’ and certainly countries like Uruguay and Argentina — they’re pushing this pro-abortion, pro-same-sex ‘marriage’ agenda, (and) the justices in Mexico City [are too],” said Tozzi.
“But elsewhere the left is more of an old left that emphasizes economics rather than the ‘latex left’ issues,” he added. “Case in point is Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, who actually, from a left-wing perspective, criticizes the abortion agenda that the developed world is pushing on the developing world, seeing it as a form of cultural imperialism. So you have the example of Ortega.”
Other “old left” regimes that have generally avoided pro-abortion and anti-family policies include those of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Although they have clamped down on freedom of the press and have implemented draconian economic controls, they have done little to satisfy Tozzi’s so-called “latex left.”
Tozzi sees signs of hope in other countries as well: “You also have the example of Ollanta Humala in Peru, who was elected president about half a year ago, with broad left-wing support. For a variety of reasons, he has rejected the ‘latex left’ agenda. His women’s affairs minister, a big pro-abortion supporter, was fired by him about a month ago and replaced with a woman who’s an evangelical Christian. So there are certain elements of the left in Latin America that are distinct from the ‘latex left,’ which people sometimes overlook.”
The keys to victory in the struggle to protect the right to life and the family in Latin America are to be found in two institutions, according to Zeidler and Rojas: the Catholic Church and the U.S. government, both of which wield enormous influence over the region.
“Many of the threats to life and family values can be worsened or reduced depending on the results of the presidential elections in the United States,” said Rojas. “The situation is indeed very dire, but we still have hope. More people are waking up to the reality of the situation all the time, and while religious faith and practice has declined greatly, there is still a shared vocabulary of human dignity based in a common Christian worldview.”
“The war is on, battles are raging all over, but by the grace of God and the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the war can be won; but we need to do our part,” said Zeidler. “Now is no time to sit on the sidelines. U.S. Catholics need to get engaged — or it will be too late.”
Matthew Hoffman writes from Mexico City.