The pressure continues to grow on President Lenin Moreno to veto parts or all of Ecuador’s Comprehensive Health Law approved by the National Assembly. Among those urging a veto are the Catholic church and leading presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, who object to allowing abortions to save a woman’s life and recognition of the LGBTI community.
Women’s rights and health professional groups are urging Moreno to sign the legislation or allow it to take affect without his signature, claiming it will “bring Ecuador into the 21st century.”
The health bill, nearly eight years in the making, was approved on August 25 by a vote of 79 to 58. The bill would guarantee the right to health universally and comprehensively, including for women, adolescents, and girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, and intersex people. It also would guarantee access to sexual and reproductive health care, and provide comprehensive services based on scientific evidence.
In a country where every day, seven girls below the age of 14 become mothers and the maternal mortality rate is 41.1 per 100,000 births, the new code would increase access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, prohibiting the delay of emergency health care for any reason, including conscientious objection.
The code makes it the duty of healthcare professionals to respect medical confidentiality, including in cases of obstetric emergency. Supporters claim this is crucial in a country where Human Rights Watch has found nearly three out of four abortion prosecutions where files can be accessed are triggered by a healthcare provider reporting a patient to the police.
The code also reinforces the country’s prohibition on conversion therapy, already contained in the Criminal Code, which bars any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The new health code also provides protections for intersex children, including a prohibition on offering or performing medical procedures that violate the personal integrity of any person who has not reached puberty, except when the child’s health or life is at risk.
In an official statement, the Catholic called the legislation “the work of the devil” and said those supporting it do not represent the Christian religion. Lasso, who calls himself a “unapologetic supporter” of the church, says the bills goes beyond supporting basic human rights.