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  • Pro-abortion activists outside of Ecuador's National Assembly advocate for easier access to the procedure.

    Pro-abortion activists outside of Ecuador's National Assembly advocate for easier access to the procedure. | Photo: Twitter / @SurkunaEc

Published 3 January 2019
Opinion

Ecuador's National Assembly debates changing the penal code to allow abortions in the case of rape and incest, currently sanctioned by prison.

Ecuador’s National Assembly will begin to debate whether or not to decriminalize abortions in the cases of rape or incest as well as when the fetus has “serious malformation.”

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The full assembly will discuss Art. 150 of the country’s criminal code (COIP) that currently only allows women to terminate their pregnancy if their life is in danger or if she has a ‘mental disability’ and was raped.

Local organizations, under the hashtags #AbortoPorViolacion (abortion in case of rape) #DejameDecidir (let me decide) have distributed an electronic petition that has nearly gained the necessary 5,000 signatures in support of the change to Ecuador’s penal code. The petition circulating on Change.org says the country’s poorest are most negatively affected by the current strict abortion rules, especially in terms of rape.

“We ask that the Ecuadorean state assume its responsibility and guarantee women's’ access to abortions in cases of rape, which would especially favor the poorest.  

According to the petition, over the past 10 years, 128,995 girls between 15 and 19 were impregnated by rape. During that same period, another 20,052 girls under the age of fourteen were raped and forced to give birth in Ecuador. “The only response they received from the health system was to continue the pregnancy,” say petition organizers.

“Rape and pregnancy affect poor women more,” reads the petition because lower-income women have to seek unsafe, clandestine forms of abortion, which puts their lives at risk or they have the baby Relaxing “further deepens their poverty situation.”

According to a report by the National Coalition of Women of Ecuador 250 women have been imprisoned in the country for seeking abortions; all were poor and under 20 years old.

Lawyer and abortion rights activist Ana Vera, who has been working for women’s reproductive rights for over 13 years in Ecuador, points out that girls as young as 10 years old are being “forced into motherhood without any support or anything that guarantees their survival and that of their children."

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Fernando Bejarano, gynecologist and obstetrician, on the other hand, told local media that if the baby and mother are well he would take the pregnancy to term.

"A living being is a living being regardless of where it comes from and is considered as such from gestation", the doctor told national media on Wednesday.

The proposal was first debated on Dec. 19 within the Justice Commission. Seven legislators voted in favor to move the motion to the full assembly while two abstained.

Sarahi Maldonado from Las Comadres, a pro-abortion organization led by Vera said that the assembly debate is an important move for abortion rights "because the state can take responsibility for its debt to women and girls and decriminalize abortions for our lives, health and dignity."

She and other activists are demonstrating inside the assembly in favor of the reform by wearing the signature green scarf that has become the symbol of abortion access in Latin America over the past two years.

The green scarf was widely used by Argentine abortion rights activists as they continually demonstrated during 2018 in favor of legislation that would have allowed abortions up to 14 weeks of conception. The measure was struck down in August by legislators but pro-abortion advocates continue to vie for the measure.

The fact that this proposal to widen abortion access in Ecuador has made it to the National Assembly is an advancement for pro-abortion activists as the 2014 COIP increased sanctions on women for having or even attempting to have an abortion.

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