July 2023

Safe abortion in Latin America: A look at abortion accompaniment collectives from the perspective of their activists

Atenzio EE, Cruz V, Garduño S, Lomelí S, Meza M, Zurbriggen R, Carbone SL, Wollum A. Culture, Healh, & Sexuality. July 2023. DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2023.2233589

Over the last decade, activists in Latin America have expanded access to safe abortion through processes of accompaniment. Abortion accompaniment is characterized by activism and community-based strategies to facilitate access to, and safe use of, medication abortion, mainly outside clinical contexts.

Drawing on findings from a survey of 515 activists who were part of Accompaniment Collectives in Latin America, this study describes the organization of these collectives, barriers and facilitators to their activism, and how accompaniers perceive the impact and future of abortion accompaniment.

Accompaniment Collectives are organized and flexible and operate in diverse social and legal contexts. The main goals of accompaniment are the normalization and social decriminalization of abortion culturally (84%); the social construction of autonomy (79%); and the protection of people’s freedom (73%), life (71%) and health (67%). Activists in legally restrictive settings identified limited access to abortion medication (73%) and restrictive laws (71%) as the main barriers to accompaniment, while health care personnel objecting to abortion provision on grounds of conscience was most common in legally permissive settings (64%).

Collectives have developed strategies to overcome such barriers to and expanding access to abortion care. Activists expect accompaniment to continue regardless of the legal status of abortion.