The Case for an Inter-American Green Wave for Abortion Rights

Abortion extremists have been waging a global war on our rights and humanity, and only a global movement can stop it.

Feminist demonstrators wave green scarves during a demonstration on Sept. 28, 2022, International Safe Abortion Day in San Salvador, El Salvador. The event celebrated global actions to decriminalize abortion in various countries. (Camilo Freedman / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

All eyes are on Florida as it becomes the latest state to consider banning abortion before most people even know they are pregnant—turning the South even more hostile for abortion access in the wake of last year’s upending of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, the country’s first female president just legalized emergency contraception, putting an end to over a decade-long harsh ban on the safe regimen to prevent a pregnancy. President Xiomara Castro’s executive order ending the country’s ban on the use and sale of emergency contraception is a step forward in a country with a total ban on abortion, and a response to years of feminist organizing. That’s where the Green Wave movement comes in.

Last month, hundreds of people gathered around a map of the Americas on Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., chanting to celebrate the first-ever Green Wave Gathering, where reproductive rights leaders from Latin America, including Honduras, made their way to meet with their U.S. counterparts to forge, together, a path forward in the fight for reproductive freedom. 

While hope inspires us, solidarity is what will keep us together.

We organized this gathering, knowing that despite the support for reproductive rights across the globe, attacks on our personal liberties are still on the rise in each of our countries.

  • In the U.S. where an overwhelming majority of people believe abortion should be legal, a conservative leaning Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and extremists across the states have been pushing inhumane laws forward ever since.
  • In the Dominican Republic, despite a majority of people believing in exceptions to the abortion ban to protect life, health, in case of rape, or fetal malformations incompatible with life, their government is pushing through a penal code making abortion a federal crime without exceptions.
  • In El Salvador, women were jailed for miscarriages and abortions.

The list goes on. 

As leaders on the frontline of this battle in the U.S. and Latin America, it is long past time we recognize that abortion extremists have been waging a global war on our rights and humanity, and only a global movement can stop it. That is why lawyers, storytellers, activists, medical professionals, abortion funds and more came together to share learnings across countries and strategize on new ideas, in order to ensure that this movement evolves to meet the needs of the people. Together, we built a shared understanding of the humility, honesty and partnership it will take for this Green Wave to continue and to blanket the U.S.

Among the attendees were women like: Marta Alanis, a key figure in the legalization of abortion in Argentina and the co-creator of the green pañuelo, which now represents the movement which has spread across the continent; Verónica Cruz Sánchez, the founder of the Las Libres network, which expanded its work distributing abortion pills in Mexico to include women in the U.S. after the draconian abortion bans passed in Texas; and Morena Herrera, a long time warrior in the fight for equality who was integral in freeing women wrongly jailed for miscarriages and other pregnancy complications in El Salvador. 

As we met to learn from each other—U.S. activists and leaders from some of our most impactful abortion rights organizations and the Green Wave leaders—we realized that while hope inspires us, solidarity is what will keep us together. Leaders from the United States welcomed our movement and have now joined the Green Wave with a pañuelo of their own, which reads, “Abortion is freedom.” As we celebrated coming together, we also had a clear vision of what is next with cases across the globe poised to drastically change the abortion access landscape. 

In Texas, five women are suing the state in a landmark lawsuit after they were denied necessary abortion care in the wake of Texas’ strict abortion laws. One woman was forced to wait until she developed blood poisoning before receiving the abortion she needed, while the other four women were forced to leave their homes and their state to get treatment. Doctors joined their patients in this lawsuit, demanding clarity so that they could treat their patients without having to put the women’s lives or their medical licenses at risk due to vague exceptions.

At the same time, lawyers in Latin America are fighting for life and health saving exceptions to abortion bans in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—a court whose decisions impact the lives of people across all of Latin America. The case is that of Beatriz, a 21-year-old woman who was battling lupus when she became pregnant. Despite medical staff diagnosing that the fetus was malformed and had no hope of life, and Beatriz’s worsening medical condition, the Salvadoran state refused to approve the procedure, resulting in her death. In her memory, advocates and her family are fighting to ensure we put an end to the unnecessary death of people due to extreme abortion bans. 

Across the Americas, the fight for life saving medical care is raging. That is why the Green Wave Gathering and the union of this movement is so critical at this time. It showed us that despite our differing political systems and climates, activists in the U.S. and Latin America share a vision of reproductive freedom and access to healthcare that cannot be stopped.

Until then, we fight. We stand in solidarity, wearing our green pañuelos, in support of every single person who has or will ever need an abortion, every person whose sexuality and identities have been oppressed and suppressed, every person who wants to live as their authentic self. We are a united movement, a transnational movement, a movement without borders and together we are unstoppable. The Green Wave is here to stay. 

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About and

Paula Avila-Guillen is a Colombian human rights lawyer, activist and executive director of Women’s Equality Center.
Kelly Baden is the vice president of policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.