The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Wednesday called for countries in the Americas to reinforce protections for women and girls seeking abortions, after observing measures that “go backwards” last year.
“Both material and formal measures were observed that go backwards in the guarantee of reproductive rights free of all forms of violence and discrimination,” the IACHR said in a statement.
El Salvador “stood out,” it said, for 30 and 50-year sentences for homicide imposed on two women last year, despite rights activists saying they suffered miscarriages.
The small Central American country, which has some of the world’s harshest anti-abortion laws, bans all terminations even if the pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s life or results from rape or incest.
Even in countries where abortion is partially legal, the IACHR said girls and teens who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest faced difficulties accessing healthcare.
In Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Panama, medical and legal professionals helping provide access to abortions permitted under national laws faced threats of legal action, according to the IACHR.
While many U.S. states protect access to abortion, the body highlighted the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which for close to half a century established a constitutional right to abortion.
The IACHR praised Colombia’s decriminalization of abortion through 24 weeks of gestation last February, as well as moves by Mexican states, including southern Quintana Roo, to allow abortion within a set number of weeks.
Quintana Roo state borders Guatemala, which has hardened punishments for women who abort to up to 25 years in jail.