In Paraguay, the topic of abortion is a complex and controversial issue that touches upon various aspects of reproductive rights, healthcare, and social norms. While Paraguayan law allows for therapeutic abortion in certain circumstances, ground reality presents significant challenges for individuals seeking a legal interruption of their pregnancies. There is also a lack of data regarding abortion that can shed light on the topic.
According to the Guttmacher Institute , between 1990 and 2019, there has been a significant decline of 18% in the unintended pregnancy rate in Paraguay. This decrease can indicate that efforts to improve access to contraception and family planning services have been somewhat successful in preventing unintended pregnancies.
However, it is important to note that despite this decline in unintended pregnancies, the abortion rate has remained relatively stable. Data shows that the abortion rate only increased from 45% to 51% during the analyzed period. This finding raises important questions and highlights the need for further examination. It suggests that while efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies have had some impact, there are several factors at play that contribute to the need for abortion services. These factors may include limited access to contraception, inadequate sex education, socio-economic barriers, and restrictive abortion laws. Furthermore, existing data reflects an issue in the data collection regarding abortion rates, that can be due to the lack of data collection systems and restrictive laws.
It is crucial to delve deeper into the reasons behind the relatively stable abortion rate to fully understand the dynamics regarding sexual and reproductive health in the country.
What does the law say in Paraguay?
Paraguayan abortion law only allows for therapeutic abortion. This means, abortion is only allowed if the physical health or life of the pregnant person is at risk . Furthermore, there are other requirements that have to be met in order to access to abortion services, such as more than one medical appointment and a written consent form that needs to be signed by the abortion seeker . In other situations, abortion is still restricted, according to the penal code from 1997 regulated abortion is a crime, and those who perform an abortion can be punished with up to five years in prison.
Even though Paraguayan law allows for therapeutic abortion, it is still difficult for those seeking abortion to obtain a legal interruption of their pregnancy, even in cases where their life is at risk, as stated by the UN Human Rights Council . One of the major concerns regarding sexual and reproductive rights in the country, according to International Amnesty , is the issue of childhood and adolescent sexual abuse. Although not every case of abuse results in pregnancy, many minors are forced to continue with the pregnancy due to national laws.
In Paraguay, conscientious objection, which refers to the refusal to participate in abortion owing to personal belief, is recognized by the constitution and the law. However, there are certain limitations to this right. According to the Health Code, as stated in Article 307, healthcare professionals may face penalties if they refuse to offer post-abortion services to someone experiencing complications from an unsafe abortion that results in death or disability. Additionally, the importance of maintaining professional secrecy is recognized, which could protect abortion seekers from legal persecutions and obstetric violence when it is necessary to seek medical attention .
How many abortions are performed in Paraguay?
Data and numbers of abortions in Paraguay
In Paraguay, the lack of official registration regarding the number of induced abortions poses a significant challenge in obtaining accurate data on the prevalence of this practice. However, researchers have employed indirect methods to estimate the number of abortions, considering various factors such as access to contraception, poverty rates, and marital status. These studies provide valuable insights, suggesting that in a single year, approximately 30,000 abortions may have been performed in Paraguay in 2017.
While these estimations offer a glimpse into the scope of the issue, it is significant to recognize the limitations and continue advocating for more comprehensive data collection and analysis. According to the women’s right experts Sotos and Moragas , the true rates of abortion in Paraguay may be concealed by the current legal regulations and social stigma, as some medical providers choose not to report cases to avoid potential legal consequences for themselves or their patients. By understanding the scale of induced abortions in Paraguay, policymakers and healthcare providers can better address the high numbers of unsafe abortions and maternal deaths and work towards ensuring the well-being and reproductive rights of all individuals.
What do people in Paraguay believe?
Opinion on abortion in Paraguay
In Paraguay, there is a lack of available data on public opinions towards abortion within civil society. However, when considering the various challenges faced by individuals seeking abortion, such as limited access to safe procedures , high rates of maternal mortality resulting from abortion complications , and the government’s reluctance to allow the interruption of teen/child pregnancies in cases of sexual abuse and incest , it becomes evident that abortion is a complex and contentious topic in the country. Moreover, studies examining the attitudes of healthcare professionals, reveal that a majority of them do not support the practice of abortion.
Knowledge and attitudes toward medical abortion in Paraguay
In Paraguay, abortion is a social, public health, and human rights issue, as is stated by women’s rights experts Soto and Moragas . The country has received recommendations from human rights control organizations about abortion punitive law. According to organizations like ONU, UN and International Amnesty, the way the rule is stipulated has a deep impact on the lives of menstruators. However, despite some minor modifications, the law remains almost the same.
People in Paraguay aren’t aware of how the abortion law operates and in which cases it is possible to request an abortion  . Furthermore, some medical providers disagree with the voluntary interruption of the pregnancy due to personal beliefs, which in most cases, are linked with a religious standpoint . Under the current regulation, health practitioners can refuse the procedure by appealing the conscientious objection .
A study titled “Conocimientos y actitudes de los profesionales de la salud, sobre el aborto inducido en Paraguay” , sheds light on the limited training and knowledge among healthcare professionals when it comes to understanding abortion laws and practices. 207 out of the 461 participants in the study, a significant 45% believed that abortion is completely prohibited under all circumstances. Moreover, the majority of respondents held the belief that human life begins at conception, leading them to perceive the voluntary termination of pregnancy, even in cases where the fetus is not viable, as an act of murder. These findings highlight the prevailing anti-abortion attitudes among medical practitioners in Paraguay and underscore the need for improved education and awareness regarding abortion regulations and options.
According to the UN Human Rights Council , Paraguayan restrictive abortion law is endangering women and menstruating people’s lives. Especially when it comes to teen pregnancy, as most of these teen pregnancies are products of sexual abuse or incest   . Nevertheless, the law continues criminalizing abortion seekers, even under those circumstances.
Who are the people who have requested abortions?
Abortion seekers in Paraguay
Official data regarding the number of individuals seeking legal abortion in Paraguay is not available. However, reports from local newspapers and websites  indicate that children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to unintended and forced pregnancies. The UN Human Rights Council  highlights that even in cases of sexual abuse and incest, Paraguay’s abortion law criminalizes any form of pregnancy termination. Disturbingly, a significant number of these cases involve underage individuals. In fact, the teen maternal death rate contributes to 20% of the overall maternal death rate. Those deaths could be prevented if the country’s abortion law were less restrictive. These findings underscore the urgent need to reevaluate the current regulations and prioritize the well-being and reproductive rights of all individuals in Paraguay.
What abortion services are available in Paraguay?
How does the context affect abortion in Paraguay?
Context and abortion
Abortion in Paraguay still is a taboo topic . Thus, social, political, and medical opinion towards it is very conservative . Despite with the high rates of teenage sexual abuse and maternal mortality due to unsafe practices , the law restrictions remain the same . It is important to highlight that, even under prior circumstances, a legal in-clinic procedure is hard to access  . There is no information about abortion pill prescriptions .
Paraguay’s socio-economic context is marked by various challenges, including issues of hunger and undernourishment, human rights violations, lack of access to clean fuels for cooking, and a significant gap between men and women. When comparing Paraguay to other countries in the region, it becomes evident that there are still significant shortcomings in key indicators. For instance, in 2020, Paraguay had the lowest access to clean fuels for cooking in the region, highlighting a glaring socio-economic disparity in terms of equal access to modern amenities and resources. These disparities underscore the need for targeted interventions and policies to address the underlying causes and bridge the gap in socio-economic outcomes to improve the quality of all the individuals.
It is also important to acknowledge the human rights violation index where Paraguay scores 5.2 out of 10. Therefore, the country continues to have problems regarding the guarantee of fundamental rights and freedoms protection. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that this figure has improved in the last few years.
By recognizing the socio-economic context in Paraguay, we can better understand the factors that influence people’s decisions to either continue or terminate their pregnancies. The disparities highlighted in areas such as hunger, human rights violations, access to essential resources like clean water and cooking fuels, gender-based literacy gaps, and economic inequality all contribute to this complex decision-making process. For instance, there may be individuals who wish to continue their pregnancies but lack sufficient social support from the existing system. On the other hand, there are those who desire to terminate their pregnancies but face legal restrictions or potential prosecution for doing so. It becomes evident that socio-economic factors play a crucial role in determining abortion rights and access in Paraguay. Addressing these socio-economic disparities and implementing supportive policies can help ensure that individuals have the freedom to make informed choices and reduce maternal mortality, especially in young people.
How did the pandemic of COVID-19 influence abortion in Paraguay?
Impact of COVID-19
There is little official data about how COVID-19 impacted Paraguayans’ sexual health and reproductive rights. However, acknowledging the UNFPA 2020  report about how the pandemic could affect women’s sexual and reproductive rights, it is clear that during the quarantine, women and girls were most likely to suffer sexual aggression and domestic violence. Thus, there was a concern about how COVID-19 and its socioeconomic implications would end in an increase in unintended pregnancy, especially when it comes to teens.
Despite no formal data being found about the pregnancy and abortion attempts during COVID-19’s quarantine, there is some information about the increase in the rate of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Paraguay protege de la violencia a mujeres, niñas, niños y adolescentes states that in March 2019, 417 domestic violence calls were reported. In March 2020, the figure increased to 626, and in April had grown to 724. Meanwhile, during the first four months of the year, children and adolescent sexual abuse reports were 596 .
What is the data gap in Paraguay?
What we don’t know
Although some data is available from the health system, NGOs provide more critical information. However, to draw a complete picture of the abortion situation in Paraguay, studies would require answering the following questions:
*There is a need for updated data on abortion in Paraguay.
*This page presents abortion data only for women and girls since the information available is usually not separated by gender. However, AbortionData.org acknowledges this limitation.
Where did we get the information?
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 Centro Paraguayo de Estudios de población (2017) Cálculo de la magnitud del aborto inducido en Paraguay, método de la incidencia de las complicaciones de aborto. Available at:http://www.cde.org.py/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2018/12/Calculo-de-magnitud-de-aborto-en-Paraguay.pdf
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