Latin America and the Caribbean
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2022)
Issue: Obstetric violence in Latin America and the Caribbean
Center Position: Obstetric violence is a form of gender-based violence.
This case concerned a pregnant Argentinian woman, Cristina Britez Arce, whose death resulted from inadequate medical treatment. The Center filed an amicus brief in the case requesting that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights adopt standards concerning the definition of obstetric violence and States’ duties in cases when obstetric violence occurs. Most of the Center’s recommendations were adopted in its ruling, which marked the first time the Court applied the concept of obstetric violence. The Court also ordered restitution for Britez Arce’s family and declared Argentina responsible for violating her rights to life, humane treatment and health, and the rights of her son and daughter to humane treatment, a fair trial, family protection, children’s rights and judicial protection. Read more about the ruling and its impact here.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2016)
Issue: Bolivia’s policy of forced sterilization
Center Position: Forced sterilization is a human rights violation.
I.V., a Bolivian, sued Bolivia when she was sterilized without her consent after giving birth. The doctor unilaterally decided that it was best for her health if she did not get pregnant again. The Center’s brief argued that forced sterilization is a breach of human rights that has a disproportionate impact on women, especially those who are ethnic minorities or belong to other vulnerable groups, and that states must adopt measures to assure that women, especially those in vulnerable circumstances, are able to provide informed consent, free from discrimination. The Court determined that Bolivia was responsible for breaching I.V.’s rights to personal integrity, private life, personal liberty, access to information, and her freedom to start a family.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2012)
Issue: Whether a state can ban in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a means to protect life prior to birth
Center Position: Costa Rica’s IVF ban violates international law.
This case concerned whether States may extend the right to life to the moment of fertilization and therefore consider an unimplanted embryo to be a born human being for all legal purposes. The Center’s brief argued that under international law, life is not protected from the moment of fertilization. Further, the brief argues that as a reproductive health service, IVF must be provided by the State to fulfill human rights like the right to equality and the right to family, as well as fundamental freedoms such as the right to privacy..
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights deemed Costa Rica’s ban on IVF discriminatory, given that it denied the petitioners the possibility of having children in spite of their disability (infertility). It further determined that protections for the right to life prior to birth cannot be absolute and must be gradual and incremental, in accordance with life’s development.
Case 12.361: Ana Victoria Sánchez Villalobos y otros v. Costa Rica
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2010)
Two amicus briefs were filed by the Center in this case:
Issue: In Vitro Fertilization Ban in Costa Rica.
Center Position: Costa Rica’s in vitro fertilization (IVF) ban, and the regulations proposed towards continuing that ban, breached international human rights law.
The case concerned the prohibition of IVF in Costa Rica due to a 2000 decision from the Constitutional Chamber of its Supreme Court which restricted access to that technique. This case was later decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador (2019)
Issue: Restrictions on access to abortion in cases of rape.
Center Position: Victims of rape must have legal access to abortion.
The Proposed Bill for the amendment of the Integral Criminal Organic Code in Ecuador established that abortion would be illegal and criminalized in cases where it is sought as a consequence of sexual violence. The Center’s brief provided context on Ecuador’s pervasive rates of sexual violence and the consequences of the criminalization of abortion in cases of rape for the health of women and girls. It also argued that international standards obligate States to guarantee access to abortion services when the pregnancy is the result of sexual violence.
Sentencing Tribunal of Cojutepeque, El Salvador (2019)
Issue: Criminal proceeding against Evelyn Hernandez, a woman criminalized for having suffered an obstetric emergency.
Center Position: Support for Evelyn Hernandez’s innocence.
After suffering an obstetric emergency, Evelyn Hernández was prosecuted and criminalized for having perpetrated the crime of homicide (for allegedly causing the death of the fetus). The Center requested the local court to take into consideration Evelyn’s individual circumstances of vulnerability, and required the Court to analyze the case with a gender perspective.
Constitutional Court of Chile (2018)
Issue: Conscientious objection to providing legal abortion in Chile
Center Position: Supports the Regulations on Conscientious Objection in Chile established in its Health Code that prohibited private health institutions from conscientiously objecting to abortion services.
Article 119 Ter of the Health Code in Chile provided that private health institutions could not conscientiously object to abortion services when they provided obstetric healthcare. The case challenged the constitutionality of that law. The Center, arguing that health is a human right that should be protected under international law, supported Chile’s regulations.
Constitutional Court of Chile (2017)
Issue: Whether permitting abortion in limited circumstances aligned with the Chilean Constitution
Center Position: Support of a proposed bill that allowed access to legal abortion under three circumstances.
The Chilean Constitutional Court was examining, in accordance with its constitutional legislation, a proposed bill–already approved by the National Congress–that allowed legal access to abortion in three circumstances: where the pregnancy represents a danger to the life of the woman, in cases of rape and incest, and in cases of fetal impairment incompatible with extrauterine life.
Constitutional Court of Lima, Peru (2014); Juzgado Constitucional de Lima, Perú (2014)
Issue: Access to emergency contraception
Center Position: Emergency contraception does not constitute a breach of the right to life and its prohibition constitutes a breach of international human rights law.
The case concerns an amparo procedure concerning access to emergency contraception. The procedure is within a context under which the Constitutional Court from Peru issued a decision prohibiting access to emergency contraception because it understood it was against the right to life. The Center argued that prohibiting emergency contraception violated international law.
Constitutional Court of Colombia (2005)
Issue: Access to abortion in Colombia
Center Position: Supports that the Constitutional Court allows for access to abortion, at a minimum, (1) when there is a threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman; (2) serious fetal impairments; and (3) pregnancy results from rape.
This landmark case overturned the absolute ban of abortion in Colombia and determined that abortion must be permitted, at a minimum, in three instances: where pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s life or health, in cases of fetal impairment, and when pregnancy results from rape.
Federal Supreme Court of Brazil (2019); Supremo Tribunal Federal do Brazil (2019)
Issue: Legality of abortion in Brazil
Center Position: Supports that the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) overturn Brazil’s restrictive abortion law.
The STF has the opportunity to remove obstacles to abortion in Brazil, including by determining whether articles 124 and 126 of the Criminal Code, which criminalize abortion, are permissible.