A proposal to decriminalization abortion in cases of rape or incest was voted down Tuesday night by Ecuador’s National Assembly. The measure fell five votes short of passage as six legislators abstained.
During the same session, the Assembly overwhelming approved the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, stiffened penalties for a variety of crimes and granted police greater powers to investigate crimes. It also gave police more protection against claims made against them by crime suspects.
Supporters of changes to the abortion law claimed that an intense lobbying effort by the Catholic church as well as anonymous threats to a number of assembly members proved to be the difference in the final vote. “The church continues a campaign to shame and intimidate the government, including the Assembly, and this vote shows that it is effective,” said Belén Marín, a supporter of abortion decriminalization. Citing a recent poll showing 70 percent of Ecuadorians favor decriminalization, she added that a change in the abortion law “is inevitable, probably within two years.”
Among the crimes that will be punished with harsher sentences are kidnapping, rape, murder, unauthorized firearm possession, child pornography, cattle rustling and animal abuse. The Assembly also closed “loopholes” that allowed criminals to avoid full sentences and granted the government greater authority to seize and hold the property of criminals.