Assemblywoman Paola Pabón has withdrawn a proposal that would have decriminalized abortion in the case of rape or the endangerment of a woman’s life. The move followed a threat by President Rafael Correa to resign if the proposal was adopted as part of a new criminal code being debated by Ecuador’s national assembly.
In a television interview on Thursday, Correa accused members of his own political party of “betrayal” in pushing the abortion decriminalization issue. “The betrayal of my friends is causing me more grief than the acts of my enimies,” he said. “If the decriminalization goes forward, I will tender my resignation.” He also labelled as “traitors” those who would change the agenda “for improving the lives of all Ecuadorians.”
In withdrawing her proposal, Pabón, a member of Correa’s Pais party, did not go down quietly. “If you want to talk about betrayal, Mr. President, consider the rapists and abusers of women in this country. On this issue, sir, you are wrong.” Pabón had the support of about 20 Pais assembly members, while the majority opposed her proposal.
Although Correa describes himself as a socialist and humanist, he is also a devout Catholic and has been called a “puritian” by some political opponents. The Sunday ban on the sale of alcohol is often cited as an example of a conservative streak they say belies his claims to the contrary.
Earlier this year, his dismissal of gay marriage as a “novelty” and distraction from more important legislative work angered not only gay and lesbian groups but some Pais members as well.
Abortion decriminalization is not the only issue in the new penal code on which Pais members and Correa disagree. Correa favors stronger penalties for petty criminals, including lowing the age for criminal prosecution from 18 to 16, while many Pais party legislators do not.
On other penal code issues, such as extending prison terms for violent crimes, strengthening penalties against money laundering, and the criminalization, in some cases, of medical malpractice, Correa and the assembly seem to agree.
Although Correa has not commented on them, Pabón and her supporters are also pressing a number of penal code proposals that would strengthen penalties for a variety of crimes against women. Opponents of abortion decriminalization say Pabón pressed the issue despite being aware of the president’s pro-life position.
During the Thursday interview, Correa called Pabón proposal unconstitutional, citing language that “defends life from the moment of conception.” He said that his position is in line with those of other Latin American countries.
Photo caption: Paola Pabón, right, talking to national assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira Friday in Quito; Photo credit: El Comercio