The debate to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, fetal deformity, and incest is underway in Ecuador’s National Assembly. Earlier attempts to liberalize the country’s law, which currently allows abortion only if a mother’s life is in danger, were blocked by former president Rafael Correa.
The new proposal is being fiercely opposed by the Catholic church, which is calling on church members to pressure the National Assembly to oppose any change to the law. “Human life is above any political and religious banner or positions erroneously called conservative or progressive,” the Ecuador Bishops Conference said in a statement issued last week.
Abortion rights groups are pushing hard for liberalization of the law, claiming that the dignity and well-being of women is jeopardized under the current law. “It is time for Ecuador to catch up the rest of the world in recognizing the rights of women, especially when they have suffered sexual violation,” says Graciela Infante of the Women’s Rights Collective. “We were defeated by the atavistic beliefs of the former president [Correa] and welcome the more contemporary position of the new government and members of the Assembly. We believe we will be successful in our efforts to change the law.”
According to a petition presented to the Assembly by Infante’s and other abortion rights groups, 128,995 Ecuadorian girls between 15 and 19 were impregnated by rape during the last 10 years. During that same period, another 20,052 girls under the age of fourteen were raped and forced to give birth in the country. “The only response they received from both the public and private health systems was to continue the pregnancy,” the petition says.
In December, the National Assembly’s Commission of Justice approved the new abortion proposal on a 7-0 vote, sending it to the full assembly. The issue is scheduled to be voted on in late January.