Women's rights activists and feminist groups submitted a proposal to Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) Wednesday to legalize abortion and secure other sexual and reproductive rights.
Artists, writers, students, and homemakers gathered in front of the ANC in Caracas, where they were welcomed by Maria Leon, president of the Legislative Committee on the Rights of Women for Gender Equality and Equity.
Daniela Inojosa, the national coordinator of the network of feminist collectives La Araña Feminista, said: “this is the first step in a long road, and we request the ANC to open the debate to include several articles securing the right to a free sexuality and to express sexual orientation, identity, and gender freely, as well as the interruption of pregnancy because these are social issues, issues of public health.”
The group, whose name translates to the Feminist Spider, have also proposed that the state guarantee access to free contraceptives for women and men, with an emphasis on the public health system.
The Network of Academics, Artists, and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity (REDH, for its Spanish acronym) has issued a public statement in support of the proposal, reiterating that the decriminalization of abortion is “a matter of public health with socioeconomic factors.”
Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), which has reported that in Latin America three out of four abortions are performed under unsafe conditions, REDH explained that restrictive laws against abortion are not effective in reducing them. REDH told ANC members a national debate is needed on this “undeniable reality.”
Venezuela, like many other countries in Latin America, has laws, which oppose or completely restrict abortion. The criminal code punishes abortion with prison terms ranging from six months to two years, and abortions are only legal when the mother’s life is at risk. Abortions in cases of fetal malformation or rape are also be criminalized.
“We believe there is a great openness to debate all issues. We have felt that some ANC legislators understand why we are requesting the legalization of abortion, that it is not a matter of whether we agree or not with abortions, it is a matter of public health; that women have abortions and we are leaving them alone in illegality. If we legalize it we can create the public policies that give economic, psychological and social support to the women who have made the decision,” Inojosa said.