1. When does Human Life begin?

Human life begins at conception. Conception is the moment when the woman’s egg is fertilized by the man’s sperm. In that moment the genetic information of both gametes fuse, creating a new human being.

2. Has science proven when human life begins?

There is a common argument which claims that science has not determined when human life begins. However, the mere possibility of the existence of a new human being justifies its thorough protection. That is why all measures that can adversely affect a human being should be forbidden, especially in moments of increased vulnerability due to gestation period.

3. What do International Human Rights Treaties say?

Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights states that “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has recognized the “pro homine” or “pro persona” principle, and holds that when there is doubt, the interpretation that protects the individual’s human rights in the most complete way will prevail.

Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, says that “For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years”.

Consequently, recognizing that human life begins at conception means that a broad defense of human life is essential for the protection of the human person and denying the right to life would mean precluding all other rights as these can only exist if the right to life is recognized.

4. Is the embryo a Human Being?

Yes, it is. Men and women can only give life to a being of their same species.

It is scientifically proven that the embryo has its own genetic code. When they are apart, the egg and the sperm are only germinal cells, but after fertilization they generate a new human life. The embryo’s status as “human being” does not depend on its qualities or capacities but only its progenitor’s nature. No one can deny that a person born without arms or legs, or with brain paralysis, is a human being. Both the disabled and the fetus lack certain capacities, but this does not mean that they are not human.

5. Does the dependence of the fetus on its mother undermine its status as a “human being?”

The nutritional dependence that the fetus has on its mother is necessary for its development. This dependence does not undermine its status as a human being. All human beings depend on something: food, warm clothing, shelter and even other individuals. The fact that the fetus is inside its mother’s womb does not make it more dependent than a child that has already been born. If one abandons a newborn baby in a room and deprives him of the necessary care, he will die too. It is not valid to claim that a fetus is not human, and thus not deserving of protection, because it is dependent on its mother.

6. What is abortion?

Abortion refers to the death of the fetus inside the womb during the gestation period. If the death occurs by natural causes, it is called a spontaneous abortion. If it occurs unnaturally through human intervention, then it is referred to as a voluntary abortion.

7. Is voluntary abortion legal in Latin America?

There are different types of voluntary abortions: (a) eugenic abortion, which is performed to remove a fetus when it is probable or certainly predictable that the unborn has a defect or disease, (b) so called Therapeutic abortion, which is practiced in order to protect the health or life of the mother when it is in danger (c) Indirect abortion, which results as an unintended consequence of an inevitable therapeutic act for the health of the mother, and (d) Free abortion, which is undertaken regardless of motivation.

Most Latin American nations have sanctioned voluntary abortion only in very limited circumstances. Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic do not allow any type of voluntary abortion. Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Granada, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela have permitted it in cases where there is danger to the life or health of the mother, or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Finally, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay are the only Latin American countries that have legalized abortion on demand (Mexico City must be included in this list as well).

8. Do the terms “abortion” and “interruption of pregnancy” mean the same thing?

They are the same. When people talk about the “interruption of pregnancy” they are referring explicitly to abortion. Often this euphemism is used in order to cover up the true nature of the act, the murder of an unborn person.

9. Is there such a thing as a woman’s human right to abortion?

Such a thing does not exist. There are no international treaties or conventions that explicitly provide for abortion or regulate it. However, there are many international conventions that protect human life from the moment of conception. This indicates that it is mandatory for States to protect and guarantee life from its beginning. Failure of the state’s governments to do so would cause huge damage to the most basic human right and would constitute a violation of the international conventions that protect it.

10. Is abortion lawful when required for the health of the mother?

Medical advancement has made this problem practically non-existent. Currently, specialized centers have seen infants survive after just six months of gestation and weighing only 600 grams. In developed countries the neonatal mortality rate for preterm infants has declined dramatically over the past 15 years. Between 1990 and 2000, infants less than 30 weeks old and between 600 and 900 grams have survived.1

11. Is it reasonable to perform an abortion in case of rape?

Victims of rape go through a deep suffering; this demands a committed response from society. However, this suffering is far from resolved by the practice of abortion. Instead, it should be addressed through a strong social and political commitment to ensure help for the women in need, compensation for harm suffered, and punishment of the person who is responsible for the crime.2

Abortion is not a solution. It kills the unborn, harms the mother, and leaves the rapist unpunished.

12. Can Abortion be seen as a valid solution for excessive population growth?

It has been argued that abortion may be a “reasonable alternative” to excessive population growth and that it might provide a solution to the food crisis in less developed countries. This results in abortion being seen by some as an effective population control tool.

However, this assertion is nullified by the UN Conference on Population and Development (Cairo1994), which states in paragraph 8.25 of its Report that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning”.

13. Is the morning after pill abortive?

It certainly is. Remember that life begins at conception. Once this takes place, a zygote is formed, and it has to be implanted in the endometrial matrix. What the morning after pill does is create a hostile environment in the uterus which prevents the implantation of the zygote, thereby condemning the unborn person to death.

14. Is there such a thing as a safe abortion?

There is no such thing as a truly safe abortion. Even procedures held in specialized clinics with trained professionals present potential physical risks to the mother. In addition, the practice of abortion has a negative impact on the psychology of women which is very hard to overcome. This has been demonstrated in numerous psychological and psychiatric studies.3 Particularly, a study conducted by psychiatrists in Navarra,4showed that 6 out of 10 women who had an abortion later suffered depressive symptoms, feelings of guilt, behavioral disturbances, and persistent re-experiencing of the event.

15. Does illegal abortion increase maternal mortality?

Proponents of the alleged right to abortion often use the argument that if abortion is prohibited, women will have no other option but to resort to establishments that do not meet necessary health and safety standards and pose serious threats to the mother’s health and life. They allege that many more women will die if they must seek abortions under these conditions.

But the fact is that numerous studies have found that maternal mortality rates have no relation to the legalization or prohibition of abortion, but rather to other causes that are not usually taken into account when it comes to looking at the protection of pregnant women.

For example, the World Bank has calculated that, if every woman had access to medical services to address complications during pregnancy, especially access to obstetric emergency care, 74% of women with these problems could be saved . The Inter–American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed that in Peru, 74% of women in rural areas give birth at home without qualified professional care, as do 90% of women in indigenous communities, even though one of the factors recognized internationally as associated with reducing maternal mortality is whether childbirth is attended by qualified personnel. In Bolivia, a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the Andean region (290), the rate of maternal mortality varies significantly depending on geographic region (high plateau, valleys, or tablelands) and depending on place of residence (urban or rural), with obstetrical complications, hemorrhage, and infections being the main causes of maternal mortality.6 This shows that high rates of maternal mortality are not related to the criminalization of abortion, and the experience of countries like Honduras and Chile, two countries profiled herein, confirm this point. As a matter of fact, rates of maternal mortality in these countries has been reduced even while their criminal laws against abortion were strengthened, revoking all cases of “allowed” abortion.7


1. FUSTIÑANA, MARIANI, JENIK, LUPO, Neonatología Práctica, 4° ed., Editorial Médica Panamericana, Buenos Aires, 2009, p. 224 y 289.

2. It should also be noted that in June 2013 the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) through resolution 2106 rejected any measure seeking to legitimize abortion and the morning after pill in terms of preventing and addressing cases of sexual violence in conflict situations, which reaches women and children in refugee camps. If in such complex situations like these practices against life are rejected (although diplomatically) we can maintain that nor can it be recognize the nature of the human right to abortion in the context of an organized society that respect people´s rights.

3. Thorp, J. M., Jr.; Hartmann, K. E.; Shadigian, E. “Long-termphysical and psychological health consequences of induced abortion: review of the evidence”, Obstet. Gynecol. Surv., 58(1): 67-79, Jan. 2003. Review

4. Categorización diagnóstica del Síndrome Post Aborto. (C. GomezLavin – Servicio Navarro de Salud Mental / R. Zapata García – Clínica Universitaria y Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona.)

5. WAGSTAFF, A. and M. CLAESON, 2004 The Millennium Developments Goals for Health: Rising to the Challenges. Washington DC: The World Bank, cited by the Inter–American Commission of Human Rights, Access to Maternal Health Care from a Human Rights Perspective, Organization of American States, Washington DC, 2010, p. 3.

6. Inter–American Commission of Human Rights, Access to Maternal Health Care from a Human Rights Perspective, Organization of American States, Washington DC, 2010, p. 3 and 5.

7. Honduras has reported a 40% decrease approximately of maternal mortality from 1990 to date (Please see the article corresponding to Honduras in this publication) and Chile now has the highest standard of maternal health in Latin America, and is the second country— after Canada—with the lowest maternal mortality rate: 18.8 per 100,000 live births. As a matter of fact, the maternal mortality rate in Chile decreased from 293.7 per 100,000 live births in 1962 to 18.2 per 100,000 live births in 2007. These figures reflect a 93.8 % total decrease of maternal mortality rate in that period of time. It is worth noting that the complete prohibition of abortion in Chile occurred in 1989, without affecting the tendency of progressive reduction of said mortality rate. http://es.scribd.com/doc/63446440/Aborto–y– mortalidad–materna–en–Chile–Presentacion–del–Dr–Koch–ante–Senado–2011