CUBA – Right to abortion in Cuba: safe, free, legal, and under attack

In 1961, after the triumph of the revolution, Cuba became the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to decriminalise abortion. But the right to abortion, as a historical victory of Cuban women, is under attack by the counter-revolution and its media, using the most outrageous lies.

In the 1950s, the practice of abortion in Cuba was similar to that of many countries in the region today: While for high society women it was performed safely and confidentially, poor women died. The number of maternal deaths from unsafe abortions was more than 60 per 100,000 births, which, within a few years after the revolution, was reduced to almost zero.

Today, abortion is practiced under three principles: The decision belongs exclusively to the woman; it is performed in public hospitals by specialised personnel; and it is absolutely free. It only becomes a crime when it is performed for profit, without the woman’s consent, or in conditions that may threaten her health or life.

“Abortion in Cuba is as easy as ‘pulling teeth’,” was the shocking headline of a report in the Spanish newspaper ABC, written by Camila Acosta, a Cuban mercenary journalist. She cites as her sources well-known “dissidents” living outside the island. For example, Óscar Elías Biscet, a Cuban ex-prisoner and anti-abortion doctor, whom ABC presents as a “devout Christian” and “human rights activist”. Biscet claims that in order to keep the infant mortality rate low, pressure is put on “women with supposedly problematic pregnancies to terminate them, often just before delivery”.

Even more outrageously, another source, María Werlau, daughter of one of the invaders killed at the Bay of Pigs and today director of the Cuba Archive in Miami, asserts that women “with high-risk pregnancies are systematically pressured… to have abortions” so that “their fetuses can be used in experiments and transplants” – supposedly hiding a network of international trafficking in human organs and tissue.

These counter-revolutionaries, together with certain religious groups on the island, are trying to put an end to the sexual and reproductive rights won by Cuban women. To do this, they are using monstrous lies.

SOURCE: People’s World, by José Manzaneda, 2 October 2023 ; PHOTO: Jorge Luis Banos/IPS, Havana Times, 4 September 2017