Friday, January 19, 2018

Reproductive Rights and the Latin American Left

Christina Ewig and Merike Blofield look at reproductive rights from the "left/right" ideological perspective. Just being "leftist" doesn't tell you much about a government's stance on abortion policy. Instead, we have to look at "populist" versus "institutionalized" left.

  • Institutionalized parties – like those in Chile and Uruguay – have channels in place for civil society organizations, including feminist ones, to have bottom-up influence. Given their respect for the rules of the game, however, the institutionalized lefts are also likely to face well-organized conservative opposition, which slow down reform, shape final legislation, or even veto it altogether.  In Uruguay and Chile, feminists had a voice, but conservatives were also are able to block, slow down, and water down liberalization.  This is why the Uruguayan reform took so long and why in both cases the final legislation is less liberal than the original proposals.
  • By contrast, populist governments, like those of Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega and Ecuador under Rafael Correa, often see advocates for liberalization as political threats – particularly feminists who also represent more general claims for individual autonomy and pluralism. Moreover, an issue like abortion, where the practical costs of a restrictive stance are born almost exclusively by low-income women, is likely to be used by populist leaders as a pawn in a power struggle with well-organized, influential religious forces.

They find this holds over other reproductive issues as well. The right, of course, is adamantly opposed. I wonder whether this will hold in Ecuador, where Correa actually gave up power and Lenín Moreno seems to act in a less populist manner.


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