As abortion reform deadline approaches, court could step in if National Assembly fails to act
The National Assembly’s Justice Commission will present a new proposal to the full Assembly today in hopes of breaking an impasse on reforming Ecuador’s abortion law. According to commission president Alejandro Jaramillo, the new report will include time periods in which abortions to end pregnancies resulting from rape can be legally performed.
The Assembly has been deadlocked for weeks over the period in which abortions will be allowed with some members pushing for liberalization of the law beyond rape cases while others insist they will not support any change to the current law.
In April 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled that Ecuador’s abortion law violates the rights of rape victims and ordered it amended.
According to Jaramillo, the justice commission will propose that abortions be allowed up to 18 weeks of pregnancy for girls and adolescents in rural areas and up to 16 weeks in all other cases. “These are the time frames we will vote on and it appears they have the support of the majority of our members,” he said. “Following adoption, our recommendation will be sent to the president of the Assembly so she can present it to the full membership.”
The leadership of the Assembly’s political blocks say they are not asking for unanimity among their constituencies. “Abortion is an issue that our people see very differently since it is personal and emotional,” says Pachakutik’s Manuel Medina. “As a result, we are allowing our members to vote as they see fit without any pressure from the party.”
UNES leader Pabel Muñoz agreed. “We are making no attempt to persuade our side to vote as a group. This will be a personal decision determined individually and our members will have complete freedom to vote as they wish.”
Abortion reform is also under pressure from President Guillermo Lasso who has said he will veto any legislation that goes beyond the order of the Constitutional Court. In December, he said he would not allow “general liberalization” of the law being supported by women’s and human rights groups.
In the full Assembly, earlier debates have devolved into shouting matches on several occasions, prompting Assembly President Guadalupe Llori to suspend discussion. Assemblywomen Johana Moreira and Verónica Carrillo were attacked as “hysterical feminists” during one session while conservative members have been branded “stooges for the Pope.”
Last week, Llori advised members that the court could impose its own law if the the Assembly does not produce legislation that meets its legal criteria. “This is not an optional exercise we are involved in,” she said. “The law will be changed one way or another.”