What is the Abortion Situation in South America?

South America has a strong Catholic heritage and is relatively friendly towards preborn children.

Four small countries, representing only five percent of the population of the continent, have abortion on demand laws or many exceptions that mean the same thing in practice. These are Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana and Uruguay. Chile, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela all have laws that fully protect preborn children or allow for only a “life of the mother” exception. The remaining five nations have a variety of exceptions, from strict (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia) to loose (Peru, with its “health of the mother” exception).1

latin america map

Foreign Intervention in South America

Anti-population groups have targeted the South American countries with the highest total fertility rate (TFR) for special attention. Subversive groups such as “Catholics” for a Free Choice (CFFC) hold huge conferences and peddle vast quantities of propaganda undermining Catholic teachings on abortion, contraception and sterilization. And numerous Protestant sects, which generally hold permissive or “neutral” positions on contraception and abortion, are growing rapidly in predominantly Catholic countries. These sects are evangelizing, while the Catholic Church generally is not doing so.

Although the situation is nowhere near as bad as it is in Africa, the population controllers still demonstrate an elitist contempt towards the customs and cultures of the people of Latin America. Typical of this attitude is a statement by Mariana Schkolnik of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, who said, “Reducing unwanted pregnancies requires cultural changes … this includes adjusting traditional gender roles, erasing the social stigma attached to abortion, and changing outdated family laws.”

The most influential pro-abortion group working in South America is the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which has affiliates in every one of the thirteen nations. In addition to publicly agitating for abortion, IPPF affiliates soften up governments with their constant drumbeat of propaganda for “reproductive rights security,” “women’s empowerment” and “gender equality,” while claiming that they want to eliminate “unsafe” abortions. IPPF knows that abortion is still anathema in the eyes of most South Americans, so it uses the term “right to life” as the first and most important of its twelve “sexual and reproductive rights.”2 The lives it is referring to, of course, are not those of preborn children.

The group also softens up the next generation of children with pornographic comprehensive sex education programs. As Alan Guttmacher, former Medical Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said shortly after Roe v. Wade, “The only avenue the International Planned Parenthood Federation and its allies could travel to win the battle for abortion on demand is through sex education.”3

IPPF’s work in Latin America and around the world would not be possible if it were not backed up by rich American foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has donated $55.3 million to IPPF, the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation ($38 million), and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation ($5 million). Additionally, IPPF receives almost two-thirds of its income, or $89.1 million in 2012, from the rich governments of the world. In other words, IPPF does not represent the interests of the people, but the interests of rich governments and billionaires.

This huge expenditure of funds is in pursuit of the principle outlined in NSSM-200: that the “developed” nations of the world and its white multi-billionaires should contribute to intermediary groups so they themselves are not perceived as being racist.4

Subversion of Catholicism

cathedral of bogota in colombia

The most dangerous organization working in South America is “Catholics” for a Free Choice (CFFC). Since the majority of South Americans are Catholic, and since the Church is still greatly respected in South America, CFFC works to undermine its influence by lying about Church teachings in order to sow confusion and division.

CFFC is particularly contemptuous of Latin Americans, even as it strives to maintain a façade of caring and tolerance. A writer for its Conscience Magazine said, “Latinos are the great brown hope of the Vatican, which is counting on them to set the church back on course by bringing their fervent piety and ethic of machismo into the mainstream of American Catholicism.”5

The CFFC leadership is so oblivious to the beliefs of Latin Americans that it even published a prayer card with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it which said, “To Our Lady of Guadalupe, for the lives of women, keep abortion legal.” CFFC also published a full-color comic book entitled Y Marie fue Consultado para ser Madra de Dios [“Mary was Asked if She Wanted to Be God’s Mother”], which asserts that, since God gave the Virgin Mary the freedom to choose whether or not to be the Mother of God, He also gives every woman the freedom to decide whether or not to have an abortion.6

Like IPPF, CFFC is also very heavily funded by U.S. foundations, not individuals who share the Catholic faith. CFFC has received a total of $74 million in grants from these foundations, including $14.5 million from the Ford Foundation; $18 million from the Buffett Foundation; $7.7 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; $6.7 million from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and $4.5 million from the Hewlett Foundation.7 CFFC also receives grants from pharmaceutical corporations, which stand to make huge profits if tens of millions of Catholic women in South American can be persuaded to ignore the Church’s teachings on contraception.

In turn, 93% of the grants given by CFFC over the past decade have gone to pro-abortion groups in Latin America.8 Most of this money is funneled to Catόlicas por el Derecho a Decidir [CDD, or “Catholics for the Right to Decide”], which is CFFC’s Hispanic outreach. CDD has claimed, “Only a feminist perspective can begin to restore the relevance, particularly to the bodies of women, of the violent imposition of Catholic moral doctrine.”9

CFFC actively cooperates with other American-based pro-abortion groups such as the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), which spreads New Age beliefs in Latin America. CFFC’s writers are clearly using the New Age in their efforts to undermine Catholic teaching and establish a “do-it-yourself” type of belief system. For instance, Sylvia Marcos praises the pre-Colombian Aztec women priestesses of early “American sexual spirituality,” whom she calls “privileged celebrants.” She also claims that pre-Colombian pagan rites are “a source of inspiration for those of us who question the morals we received and believe that the experience of pleasure brings union with the divinity.”10

It is not surprising that people who vocally defend the brutal partial-birth abortion procedure would also admire a religion whose practitioners cut the still-beating hearts out of hundreds of thousands of screaming victims.

aztec sacrifice

Population Control in South America

IPPF and CFFC are the most powerful pro-abortion influences in South America, but they are backed up by a wide range of foreign-funded population control groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the International Women’s Health Coalition, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, and dozens of others, which funnel money and expertise into the continent to further the cause of abortion “rights.”

Since 1990, the “developed” world governments have funneled $2.8 billion into population control programs in South America.11 This sum may seem paltry compared to Africa’s $50 billion plus, but it is having a profound effect. Currently, there are about 4.7 million induced abortions annually in Southern America, Central America and the Caribbean, and there were about 82 million done during the period 1995-2013, inclusive.12

As of July 1, 2014, the 13 nations of continental South America have a total population of 407,605,000 people in a land area of 6,760,000 square miles, for an average density of 60 people per square mile, less than half of the world average.

The average total fertility rates (TFRs) of the nations of South America have plunged from 5.21 children per woman in 1965 to 1.83 in 2014, a total decline of 65% to a figure that is far under replacement. The highest 2014 TFR for South America is Bolivia’s 3.00 children per woman. The most populous nation, Brazil, also has the lowest TFR at 1.57. The greatest drop in TFR among South America’s nations over the time period 1965-2014 was Brazil’s 71%.

All of this means that the population of South America will peak at about 445 million in about 25 years and then will begin to steeply decline.13

Final Thoughts

Pro-lifers in North America should be aware of the abortion situation to their South, and should pray for the intentions of their fellow activists in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Rio de Janeiro statue of Christ

If we can help Latin Americans hold on to their Faith and their pro-life values, not only will the lives of millions of babies to the South be saved, it will inevitably have a huge impact upon the abortion situation in the United States.



[1] South American abortion laws are as follows as of January 1, 2014:

  • Argentina ― Mother’s life and rape
  • Bolivia ― Mother’s life, rape and incest
  • Brazil ― Mother’s life and rape
  • Chile ― No exceptions
  • Colombia ― Mother’s life, rape, incest, fetal deformity (eugenics)
  • Ecuador ― Mother’s life, rape, mental disability, and mother’s physical health
  • French Guiana ― Abortion on demand
  • Guyana ― Abortion on demand
  • Netherland Antilles ― Abortion on demand
  • Paraguay ― Mother’s life
  • Peru ― Mother’s life and physical health
  • Suriname ― No exceptions
  • Venezuela ― Mother’s life
  • Uruguay ― Abortion on demand

Center for Reproductive Rights. “The World’s Abortion Laws.

[2] The Asociación Pro-Bienestar de la Familia Colombiana (PROFAMILIA) “Sexual & Reproductive Rights within Everyone’s Reach,” 2005 pamphlet.

[3] Alan Guttmacher, former Medical Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) during a speech on May 3, 1973, quoted in Humanity Magazine, August/September 1979, page 11, and in ALL about Issues, December 1979, page 2.

[4] NSSM-200 says, “There is also the danger that some LDC [less-developed countries] leaders will see developed country pressures for family planning as a form of economic or racial imperialism; this could well create a serious backlash.” Part II, “Policy Recommendations,” Paragraph 1C, “Instruments and Modalities for Population Assistance.”

[5] Adelle-Marie Stan. “A Decade of Dissent.” Conscience, September-December 1987, pages 24 to 26.

[6] Catόlicas por el Derecho a Decidir. “Y María fue consultada para ser Madre de Dios” [“And Mary Was Consulted to Be God’s Mother”]. México, D.F.: Centro Nacional Pro Maternidad Voluntaria, Despenalizaciόn y Legalizaciόn del Aborto.

[7] For references and calculations, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet GRNTCFFC.XLS, “Foundation Grants to ‘Catholics’ for [a Free] Choice.”

[8] For references and calculations, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet CFFC.XLS, “Summary of Financial Information on ‘Catholics’ for [a Free] Choice (CFFC).”

[9] “Catholics for the Right to Decide in Latin America.” Conscience, Summer 2001, pages 24 to 27.

[10] Ana María Portugal [Editor]. Mujeres e Iglesia: Sexualidad y Aborto en América Latina [“Women and the Church: Sexuality and Abortion in Latin America“]. México, D.F.: Distribuciones Fontamara, S.A., 1989, pages vii, 21, 23, 58, 59, 76, 77, 97 and 118.

[11] For references and calculations, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-18-B.XLS, “Population Control Expenditures in the Regions and the Nations of the World, 1991-Date.”

[12] For references and calculations, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-18-12.XLS, “Annual Number of Legal and Illegal Induced Abortions Performed in the World, 1960-2013.”

[13] United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN). The low variant is used because it has historically been the most accurate projection.

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Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.

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