Termination of Pregnancy and Abortion in Panama

Information about the laws related to abortion and terminating a pregnancy in Panama...

Panama is a Roman Catholic country where abortion is viewed unfavorably.

Abortion is illegal in Panama except in cases where the pregnancy is a health risk or threatens the life of the mother. Exceptions are also made if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, but only in the first trimester. To obtain a legal abortion, the rape or incest must be on public record; the case must have been processed through the courts, and a crime affirmed. Only after rigorous documentation and carefully specified voluntary action on the part of the mother does an abortion take place. Legal abortions can only be carried out in government hospitals.

Illegal abortions are penalized. A woman can be punished with one to three years in prison. Doctors performing the procedure with the woman’s consent can receive three to six years in prison. If the woman does not give her permission, the doctor can be imprisoned for five to ten years. The same prison term applies if a woman dies as a result of the surgery. If a husband is found to have terminated his wife’s pregnancy, the penalties increase by one-sixth.

Some forms of family planning are available in Panama. Contraceptives are widely available, condoms and some intrauterine devices can be obtained by women, cost free. All brands of contraceptive pill are available without prescription; however, they have different names and it can be hard to find out what the drug is called locally without consulting a doctor first. Other contraception such as contraceptive implants, hormone injections, and patches are also available. They are not free, but are much cheaper than they are elsewhere.

The Panama Family Planning Association (Asociación Panameña para el Planeamiento de la Familia - APLAFA) is a private program, which was founded in the 1960s to help control the size of families. The group has worked to reduce teen pregnancy and aid women with prenatal and post-natal care in the case of unwanted pregnancies.

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The government also offers services to educate couples about natural and modern methods of birth control.

Sterilization for women in public health centers is only possible after a woman has given birth to two or more children and she is over the age of 23.  Older men may also request sterilization.