Abortion Rights Lawfare in Latin America

Project Team: Rachel Sieder (Project leader), Camila Gianella, Siri Gloppen, Roberto Gargarella, Paola Bergallo, Ana Cristina Gonzales, Angélica Peñas, Marta Rodriguez Rodriguez de Assis Machado, Alicia Ely Yamin

Timeframe: 07/01/2014 - 06/30/2017

Abstract: The project analyses the strategic use of rights and law in battles over abortion rights in Latin America – and the various effects of this lawfare between opposing groups.

Background and purpose:

The growing scholarship on the interaction between judicial institutions and human rights in Latin America has mainly focused on socially progressive, rights-expanding forms of lawfare. Little contemporary research exists on the counter-progressive use of the legal field in Latin America to limit the human rights gains of recent decades. Further, the transnational dimension is central to understanding both progressive and conservative lawfare.

Research focus/questions:

With a specific focus on lawfare around rights to legal abortion, the research project will analyze the transnational aspects of mobilization, networking and norm diffusion (and reactions to it) amongst Latin America social movements and within different institutions of Latin American states. In short, through this project, we aim to advance the broader field of socio-legal studies in Latin America that is concerned with law, social transformation and human rights. To sum up, the research project analyse; the nature, form, causes and particularly the consequences of lawfare in Latin America, focusing particularly on the creation of norms and judicial rulings, their implementation and effects.

Methods/case selection:

The research project aims to answer the Research questions through comparison of a range of country-specific cases including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador and two studies analysing regional and global dimensions and trends of lawfare around abortion and women’s health rights.


  1. Special issue 2021: Abortion Lawfare in Latin America: Some Readings Keys For a Changing Scenario.
  2. Journal Article, 2017, ” The Battle over abortion rights in Brazil’s state arenas, 1995-2006“, by Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado and Debora Alves Machiel (2017)
    in Health and Human Rights Journal.
  3. Journal Article, 2017, “Legal knowledge as a tool for social change: La mesa por la vida y la salud de las mujeres as an expert on Colombian abortion Law” , by Ana Cristina González Vélez and Isabel Cristina Jaramillo (2017) in Health and Human Rights Journal vol. 19 no. 1.
  4. Journal Article 2017, “The Moderating influence of international courts on social movements: Evidence from the IVF case against Costa Rica”,  by Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado and Debora Alves Machiel (2017) in Health and Human Rights Journal.
  5. Journal Article | 2017 “Abortion rights legal mobilization in the Peruvian media, 1990–2015 
    by Camila Gianella in Health and Human Rights Journal vol. 19 no. 1.
  6. Journal Article 2016  “Strategies of Self-Proclaimed Pro-Life Groups: Effect of New Religious Actors on Sexual Policies” by José Manuel Morán Faúndes and María Angélica Peñas Defago
    in Latin American Perspectives vol. 208 no. 43: 3.

Project events:

Abortion Rights Lawfare in Latin America: Methods and Findings. Date: 22 August 2017. With: Rachel Sieder (CIESAS, Mexico/CMI – project leader), Isabel Jaramillo (Los Andes University, Bogota), Ana Cristina Gonzalez Velez (University of Rio de Janeiro); Angélica Peñas (Cordoba University, Argentina) in dialogue with Gro Lindstad (FOKUS).

Abortion Rights Lawfare: Comparative Perspectives. Date: 22 August 2017. With: Paola Bergallo (DiTella University, Buenos Aires), Mulumbet Zenebe (Addis Abeba University, Ethiopia), Liv Tønnessen (CMI), Jayna Kothari (CLPR Bangalore), Atina Krajewska (University of Sheffield), Mindy Roseman (Yale University, USA).

Abortion lawfare & the right wing in Brazil. Date: 17 August 2017. With: Luciana Gross Cunha & Marta Machado (Professors at FGV Law School, São Paulo). Moderator: Lara Côrtes (LawTransform/CMI).

Abortion Lawfare: Struggles in Latin America and Europe. Date: 9 February 2017. With: Paola Bergallo (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella), Camila Gianella (CMI/LawTransform), Elzbieta Kurdziel (UiB). Moderated by Bruce Wilson (University of Central Florida – CMI).

Abortion rights lawfare in Latin America: Research update from the field. Date: 15 February 2015. With: Camila Gianella (CMI/LawTransform).