BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's public health system is failing many of the women who depend on it for access to birth control and abortion, a human rights group said Tuesday.
In a new report, Human Rights Watch said the Argentine government hasn't implemented its own reproductive health care laws and policies.
"The laws in Argentina are relatively good — if only they were enforced," said the report's author, Marianne Mollmann.
Like most Latin American countries, Argentina outlaws abortion, but makes exceptions when the woman is developmentally disabled, a rape victim or her health is endangered.
But judges and doctors routinely deny or delay abortion in these cases, forcing many women to undergo risky procedures outside the system, Human Rights Watch said.
In July, Health Minister Juan Manzur dialed back a government effort to clarify how doctors should comply with exceptions to the abortion ban, saying he never approved the new guidelines and was personally opposed to abortion.
"We have said this before: We are against abortion. The president has said the same thing," Manzur told reporters at the time.
Health Ministry officials did not respond Tuesday to requests for information and reaction to the report.
The rights group said it interviewed women who said they were treated hostilely when they sought legal abortion. A woman who became pregnant as a result of rape told researchers that a psychologist pressured her to carry the pregnancy to term, while a judge remarked that because she was dressed nicely, she must not have been very traumatized by the rape.
With the help of a women's group, the woman eventually obtained an abortion at a public hospital.
The report also cited alleged problems with the availability of contraceptives, saying that many women went without when a shipment of birth control pills was delayed in a Buenos Aires port for a month in 2008. Others reported being given expired contraceptives in public health centers, or were given one form of birth control at one visit, and then another at the next.
"It really is just about providing information and contraception to give women real choices," Mollmann said. "That's not happening."
The rights group did cite two areas of improvement since its last review in 2005: New laws have made sex education mandatory in all public schools and removed obstacles for women who want to be sterilized.