"The health exception": A means of expanding access to legal abortion

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In most Latin American countries, abortion is not illegal if there is a risk to the life or health of the woman. This article discusses the process of expanding the interpretation of this "health exception" to mean that even the possibility of harm to health should make an abortion legal - which then becomes a mechanism for expanding women's right of access to safe abortion services. The article reports on an assessment of the impact of disseminating information on this interpretation of risk to health in Latin America, and how a regional process of debate and training of health service providers in 2009-10 has influenced the views and practice of health professionals in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The training included human rights arguments for applying the health exception in a comprehensive manner. All the respondents recognized the importance of interpreting risk to health as far more than the risk of death. Data from two clinics in Colombia also show an important increase in the number of women who had a legal abortion following this training. Dissemination of information and training on the health exception must continue - to protect women's right to health, reduce mortality and morbidity among those with unwanted pregnancies and encourage timely access to safe abortion services. © 2012 Reproductive Health Matters.




González Vélez, A. C. (2012). “The health exception”: A means of expanding access to legal abortion. Reproductive Health Matters, 20(40), 22–29. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0968-8080(12)40668-1

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