Under orders from the Constitutional Court, the National Assembly on Thursday approved a law allowing abortion in the case of rape. The bill passed on a second vote after its sponsors agreed to reduce the period in which a pregnancy could be terminated from 16 weeks to 12. For young girls and women living in rural areas, the new law allows abortions for up to 18 weeks in cases of rape.
Assembly advocates for more expansive abortion rights were disappointed in the outcome and said they would introduce new legislation at a later date. “The church and retrograde forces had their way today but this issue will come up again,” said Assemblywomen Johana Moreira.
Others, however, said the legislation “was a step in the right direction.” Ana Vera of the Surkuna Foundation, a women’s rights activist, said the law “will ensure the ability of women and girls to decide whether they want to continue or terminate pregnancy in the case of rape. No woman should be forced into motherhood, but neither should she be forced into a clandestine abortion,” she said, noting that the ban on abortions has not stopped women from seeking them.
There have been no arrests or prosecutions for abortions in Ecuador since March 2021 when the court ruled that the current law is unconstitutional.
Outside the Assembly building, a crowd of about 200 women chanted and carried signs advocating for abortion rights and demanding stronger laws to protect women against violence.
Those opposing abortion in any case blamed “evil and Godless elements” in the Assembly for passage of the bill. Jaime Pallares, a member of a Catholic church-supported anti-abortion group said it was regrettable that lawmakers adopted the bill without acting to give women alternatives, such as giving up unwanted babies for adoption.
The Assembly was also under pressure from President Guillermo Lasso who said he will veto any legislation that went beyond the order of the Constitutional Court. In December, he said he would not allow “general liberalization” of the law and would apply a “narrow judgment” to the final proposal.
The president’s office had no comment after passage of the bill and it is unclear if Lasso will accept, veto or partially veto the law.
In addition to the right to abortion in cases of rape, the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy in cases of Rape law also allows women and girls with disabilities to voluntary terminate a pregnancy.
The final vote was 75 in favor, 41 against with 13 abstentions. Passage requires 70 votes.