The National Assembly will vote today on key changes to Ecuador’s criminal code, including proposals that would legalize abortion in the case of rape or incest and allow the possession of marijuana for medical purposes. Other changes would give police more arrest and search and seizure authority.
The abortion issue has dominated discussion in the Assembly in recent weeks and has been the focus of an intense lobbying campaign by the Catholic church to keep all abortion illegal.
César Litardo, president of the National Assembly, said Monday that he wanted to vote on all proposed changes to the criminal code on Tuesday instead of holding a vote on the abortion question on another date as previously proposed. “We need to move forward on this and all the issues of criminal law and put the debate behind us,” he said. “We have talked enough about this and it is time to make a final decision.”
One proposal that may be deferred would decriminalize possession of cannabis when it is used for therapeutic purposes. Litardo said he would decide on Tuesday whether to include the proposals among today’s votes.
Other major changes to criminal laws would allow police more authority during investigations and arrests. According to President Lenin Moreno, the changes are needed to “strengthen the ability of police to protect the public.” Nationally, crime has increased in 2019 over 2018.
On the abortion proposal, Alianza País (AP) Assemblywoman Belén Marín said AP legislators are free to vote their personal convictions. “Each assembly member must make a decision according to their conscience, she said. “We welcome a healthy debate but reject the campaign by some that would seek to prosecute, at a later date, those who vote for changing the abortion law.”
At least three assembly members report receiving death threats for supporting changes.
Although the Catholic church denies being involved in any threats, Marín says the church has not rejected those making them.
In addition to AP, leadership of the Christian Social party (PSC) and the Independent Democratic Action party says it will allow members to make up their own minds on abortion changes.