Don’t move. Those were the only words from the doctor who performed Samora Chalmers’ first abortion 15 years ago in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during her 30-minute appointment.

Chalmers can’t tell you the details of the procedure she underwent. The doctor never told her. All she remembers is being alone with a stranger and feeling terrible pain, which anesthesia did little to numb. Three days later, she had lost so much blood that she had to see another doctor—but couldn’t tell him why because of Haiti’s strict anti-abortion laws.

“It was really shocking. … After that, I was like, this is crazy,” says Chalmers. “I could die, and no one would know what happened to me … and the doctor would probably deny it.”

The challenges that American women have faced since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 are all too familiar to women in Haiti, who live under the shadow of highly restrictive abortion laws almost as old as the republic itself.

Haiti is a conservative society where Roman Catholicism shapes many of its social norms. Patriarchal norms, says Haitian feminist Pascale Solages, co-founder and general coordinator of feminist organization Nègès Mawon, have informed its strict views on abortion. In Haiti, women can’t legally access voluntary abortions. Doctors can’t perform them unless the woman’s life is in danger. People who seek, provide, or assist abortions face significant legal consequences—seekers and helpers can serve life in prison. Women who undergo abortion also risk ostracization from their communities. For women and girls who aren’t ready to have children, can’t afford to have them, or are pregnant by rape—Haiti’s justice system treats pregnancies caused by rape and incest in the same way as pregnancies resulting from consensual relationships—abortion can mean life in prison.

Read the full article about safe abortion access in Haiti by Jade Prévost-Manuel at YES! Magazine.