The Catholic church has mounted an aggressive campaign to demand President Lenin Moreno veto parts of a health law allowing abortion in health emergencies, parental surrogacy and expanded sex education in schools. The law’s sponsors in the National Assembly say the provisions protect a woman’s life and bring Ecuadorian law into compliance with international standards.
Quito Archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza insists that a veto of the provisions is “God’s way and the only way,” disputing claims by supporters of the rights of women. “We do not support abortion in any case, including that of the so-called obstetric emergency. Never abortion, never,” he said.
Espinoza also opposes the legalization of assisted reproduction and surrogacy, which the law proposes to regulate and a new program of sex education in public schools. “The church says no to surrogate bellies and supports the rights of parents to educate their children as they see fit, in the light of God’s vision,” he says.
Assemblyman and president of the Health Commission William Garzón said the articles opposed by the church are “common sense issues” to protect the lives of mothers and to tighten standards of assisted reproduction which currently lack health standards. “We have received contributions and advice from all sectors of the community in developing this legislation,” he said. “Most important, we have listened to doctors and women who live with the consequences of poor regulation and guidance on a daily basis.”
Without the legislation, Garzón says, doctors can legally allow a woman to die to save the baby. “In many cases, both the mother and baby can be saved and that is what we aim to accomplish. This is all about honoring human life.”
Garzón said the health law’s regulation on surrogacy will protect the rights of poor women involved the practice and make sure unborn babies receive adequate health care. “Surrogate births have been happening for years and will continue to happen. We want to ensure that the process has the professional oversight necessary to avoid abuses.”
Currently, he says, “middlemen” are becoming millionaires by brokering surrogate arrangements and the women who carry babies to term are cheated, not only of money but of health care.”