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News > Latin America

Guatemala: Congressional Committee Rejects Bill Granting Abortions to Underage Rape Victims

  • Anti-abortion protests in Guatemala City, August 2017

    Anti-abortion protests in Guatemala City, August 2017 | Photo: teleSUR

Published 11 September 2018

Pro-abortion activists are hoping President Jimmy Morales will challenge Congress on the matter.

Guatemala’s Congressional Women's Commission has rejected a bill that would have decriminalized abortions for rape victims under the age of 14, and rape on technical and religious grounds.

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The abortion article was included in a bill titled ‘Comprehensive Protection, Access to Justice, and Reparation for Children and Adolescents Victims of Sexual Violence, Exploitation, and Trafficking.' 

Anibal Rojas, the conservative committee chairperson, claimed amendments presented by social organizations and committee members weren't properly budgeted for and needed to be reviewed. 

However, committee member Sandra Moran said Rojas threw out the bill due to her personal religious convictions.

"The argument is that I did not follow correct procedure,” Moran told the media last week when the proposal was denied. “Please… we are talking about girls' lives. If there had been political will, that would have been solved."

"If Congress does not respond to the needs of girls … let the church do it. To all the people who came out to say no to 5376, the responsibility of caring for the girls is in their hands. I hold them accountable because the State of Guatemala does not do anything for them," concluded Moran.

During a committee session in late August, when Rojas rejected the draft, she said "the word of God says that his eyes see embryos. Children are an inheritance of the Lord!" A statement, which unmasked her religious and anti-abortion views. 

Rojas also cited an anti-abortion protest last week where demonstrators chanted the slogan "No to abortion, yes to life," in front of Congress saying: “There were thousands of people who protested against abortion and this law discusses that issue. We express our total opposition. In Guatemala, we cannot afford any practice of abortion" concluded the senator.

Paula Barrios, director of Women Transforming the World, said Tuesday, “We are totally disappointed. We are concerned that girls, adolescents and their children born as a result of sexual violence have no help. They are abandoned," said Barrios.

According to data from the Observatory of Sexual and Reproductive Health (OSAR), during the first seven months of this year, 61,686 girls and adolescents became pregnant, 2,102 of whom were under age 14.

The bill would have made exceptions for minors, who were victims of sexual violence, exploitation, and trafficking. It was expected to be discussed this week in the Senate but will now be shelved.

According to Sandra Moran's poll of the legislature, there are no plans to discuss it in the near future, but, activists remain hopeful.

“We started this project in June 2016. ... We are leaving thousands of girls unprotected, who live with their children today," said Moran.

Pro-abortion activists are hoping President Jimmy Morales will challenge Congress on the matter.


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