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News from Latin America: Working for Life in Latin America: What We Have Learned for 2007


Desensillar hasta que aclare (“get off and unsaddle your horse until it clears”) was the directive of Juan Domingo Perón, three times elected President of Argentina, to his followers in 1966. At that time, Perón was in the middle of his worst political situation. Everything was against him: he was exiled in Spain, his political party not only defeated but outlawed. Even mentioning his name in Argentina was prohibited in those days. However, Peron’s experience in the cavalry as well as a boy growing up in the countryside taught him how dangerous it is to ride a horse in the darkness of night, fighting blindly. “Get off and unsaddle your horse until it clears” was to wait, understand the whole scenario and see beyond some adverse conditions.

Perón’s advice could fit very well the Latin American pro-life situation. A long list of attacks on life and family made someone claim “hell is breaking out.” We felt the same darkness Perón and his followers experienced. However, the savvy of the leader lay in thinking, visualizing, evaluating and focusing before restarting the light. He was not only re-elected as President in 1973, but he consolidated one of the most important political parties in the world.

Riding a Horse at Midnight…

There has been no shortage of extremely important matters in a number of Latin American countries and they still need urgent attention.

  • Colombia: A Constitutional Court decision decriminalized abortion in spite of huge protests in the streets and two million signatures presented to the judges beforehand. Monica Roa, supported by all the power and funds of the U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights, is now exporting abortion to other Latin American countries.

  • Ecuador: We suffered a legislative defeat in Ecuador that needs immediate attention. A new Code of Health has been passed by the Congress that includes a liberal sex ed curriculum based on the contraceptive mentality, the morning-after pill in public services (against a Constitutional Court decision!), and an obligation for doctors to perform abortions for “legal” exceptions.

  • Peru: In Peru as in many other countries, the morning-after pill has been authorized to be sold in drugstores even though its legality is still not clear. MAP use is sky rocketing. In 2006, they have doubled the closes and revenue of 2005. In Peru, MAP sales are around 60% of the contraceptive pill’s sales and more than 200% of the injectable contraceptives’ sales.

  • Argentina: We have suffered the ratification of the CEDAW Protocol as it is accepted in several Latin American countries. That means the CEDAW Committee’s recommendations to legalize abortion in that country will be more powerful.

  • Brazil: The Lula Administration is executing a norm to perform abortions even in violation of constitutional rights. Using the well-known excuse of rape, this norm obliges doctors to perform abortions without evidence of rape because the norm states that the word of the woman is enough.

  • Chile: In Chile as in many other countries in the region, there has been an attempt to give MAP and all the ammunition of the contraceptive industry to girls over 14 years old without consent or knowledge of their parents.

  • Nicaragua: We need urgently to reinforce the great victory there in eliminating “therapeutic” abortion from the criminal code. Today we need to determine our response to the pro-abortion challenge being mounted in Nicaragua by the Center For Reproductive Rights.

And the list could go on and on… making darker the night. Bills, or even governmental norms, in matters like same-sex unions, sterilization campaigns, protocols of “therapeutic abortions,” public reproductive health services, pro-“gender perspective” policies, etc., have been our permanent war in defending life and family in Latin America. Of course, not everything was negative.

Getting Off the Horse…

We followed Perón’s advice in getting off our horse tor a while, spiritually at least. We certainly did a lot of activism in the past year, but we need a more coordinated strategy.

With some of the fog clearing, we have learned that:

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is not unconditionally in favor of the international pro-abortion movement. USAID could be an ally if we present documented evidence of human rights abuses. In Peru, a USAID partner, the feminist organization Manuela Ramos, was asked for reimbursement of USAID funds and lost a grant to keep broadcasting a TV program.

  • Having a network of organizations, we are able to influence some policy and lawmakers. In Chile, there is a recently created organization of pro-life parliamentarians. In other Latin America countries, we only need to work smart to join them.

  • Having a proper legal strategy and presenting the most recent scientific information, we were able to outlaw the morning-after pill in Ecuador. We are on the way in other countries.

  • Taking advantage of the right moment and giving professional information, we can remove all the exceptions for sanctioned abortion. In that way, we can close the gap our enemies are using to decriminalize abortions through some “medical” protocols.

  • Public policies to strengthen families are not easy prey for attack by our enemies and are the most powerful way to protect our children (born and unborn) from abortion and contraceptives.

  • We can “take the offensive”; we must not only “react.” We must be proactive.

  • Sharing experience is powerful. Since our enemy forces in Latin America are hired and funded by the same people, their arguments are always the same.

  • Having a group of well-trained and multidisciplinary pro-life professionals is crucial to set up a smart strategy in each scenario.

History told us that simple and smart advice, like Perón’s, could work. We have learned that everything is possible if we have confidence in God and in ourselves. Serving a more important cause, we will succeed at last.

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