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Conservative lawmakers consider a constitutional reform that would require a three-quarters majority to overturn Latin America's most draconian abortion laws.
The measure, called a "shield against abortion," would make it virtually impossible to legalize abortion, now or in the future, in the Central American nation.
A response to the feminist "green wave" sweeping across the region as a result of the landmark legalization of abortion in Argentina, the reform's opponents, including Cristina Alvarado of the Women's Movement for Peace, call it "a shield to stop the green wave" because in Honduras "there is an absolute violation of the reproductive rights of women and girls."
Honduras is one of four countries in Latin America that prohibits abortion under any circumstances and is the only country in the region to ban emergency contraceptives even in the case of rape.
The new measure, likely to pass in the next week, requires a three-quarters majority to repeal or modify the country's existing law, raising the threshold to above what is typically expected for constitutional reforms to pass.
Fearing similar proposals of a similar nature could be enacted in other Latin American countries to halt women's reproductive rights, Alvarado said: “[The legislators] want to shield against the possibility of future legislation that would decriminalize abortion."
In 2017, only 8 of 128 legislators in Honduras voted in favor of a bill to decriminalize abortion in the case of rape or incest, when the mother’s life is at risk and when the fetus could not survive outside the womb.
Beatriz Valle, of the leftist Libre party, said of that experience: "We live in an extremely conservative society. It’s a matter of public health, but the people don’t want to see it that way.”
Honduras is one of four countries in Latin America that prohibits abortion under any circumstance. Rightwing lawmakers are pushing a law which would ensure that reform would be virtually impossible https://t.co/U066Y2BkcX
The constitutional reform also excludes the possibility of a legal ruling, such as Roe vs. Wade in the United States, or the passing of a new constitution to overturn the prohibition.
Pro-choice activists explain that the reform will not prevent abortions but maintain the status quo in which many women, especially those who cannot afford to fly to another country where the practice is legal, must seek abortions in unsafe conditions.
An OB/GYN at a local public hospital in Tegucigalpa said: "There have been cases where once you do the physical examination you find coins or even nails in the vaginal cavity," adding that his hospitals see roughly 150 miscarriages a month, mostly young teen mothers he suspects attempted abortion.
While charges are rarely filed, performing or undergoing an abortion in Honduras carries a sentence of three to six years in jail. A scenario made even more difficult for Honduran women who suffer the highest femicide and sexual violence rate in all of Latin America.
According to Alvarado, "We closed 2020 with more than 100,000 calls to 911 from women suffering domestic violence. Of those calls, only 2.5% resulted in criminal complaints.” Even fewer resulted in a conviction.
That said, feminist activists in Honduras find inspiration in the accomplishments achieved by other green wave victories across Latin America, continually resolved to fight.
"We are going to keep fighting for the right to decide,” said Alvarado. “I think that if there’s something that we can learn from the Argentinians, it’s to go step-by-step. It took Argentina over 30 years.”