Paraguay offers to hold debate on legalization of abortion

Paraguay may move toward the legalization of abortion, according to the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Federico Gonzalez said that while abortion is illegal in his country, “An open debate is going to take place in order to analyze this issue in depth.” He made his comments while attending the 17th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council taking place May 30-June 17.

The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism of the United Nations which consists of the review of the human rights practices of all countries in the world.

The reviews take place once every four years.

During the current review taking place in Geneva, the country of Norway recommended that Paraguay study “the scope of illegal and unsafe abortions taking place and introduce measures to protect the universal right of women to life and health.”

“Paraguay is grateful for the 124 recommendations received during its participation in the Universal Periodic Review. All of the recommendations have been accepted,” Gonzalez said.

In response to the recommendation by Norway, the Paraguayan delegation in Geneva issued a statement on May 31 announcing that a government resolution is currently being drafted to address the issue of “humane health care for patients in situations of abortion.”

However, Paraguay’s Director of Human Rights of the Ministry for Foreign Relations, Ines Martinez, told CNA the government “has made no commitment” regarding the legalization of abortion. 

“A legislative measure” does exist, she said, and is currently “in the hands of the Legislative branch. There is no policy (of the State), there is a measure in the sense that there is law like in any other country and it is currently before parliament.”
Norway and other European countries often use these “recommendations” to pressure countries in Latin America and Africa to legalize abortion.

Nicaragua has become an emblematic case in this regard, as the country has fought hard to resist pressure to change its laws, which do not allow abortion under any circumstances. The country has been continuously threatened with cuts in financial aid from European nations.

Reaction from pro-lifers in Paraguay

Maria Celia de Meyer, the secretary general of the Federation of Pro-life and Family Associations in Paraguay, told CNA, “Several cabinet officials in Paraguay are talking about introducing the issue of abortion again.”

“There is a lot of pressure from the U.N.” to pass this measure, Meyer said. “We are told that it has been passed in such-and-such country and so it should be passed here as well, as if we were the only country defending life. This is not the case, but (the promoters of abortion) always use this argument,” she added.

Meyer said pro-life groups are mounting a massive campaign against the proposed law. “They are not going to be able to just freely pass (this law); they are going to have to deal with opposition from a lot of people” she said.

Marcela Brodon of the organization Generacion Provida, told CNA, “As young people who fight for the protection of human life from the moment of conception, we completely disagree with the idea of modifying our national laws, as do the majority of Paraguayans.”

Generacion Provida recently mounted an online protest on Facebook which 14,000 signed in opposition to a visit by Spain’s former Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aido, who came to Paraguay to attend a gathering of health ministers.

Brodon said some lawmakers in Paraguay are orchestrating a maneuver to modify two articles of the Constitution: Article 229 forbids presidential reelection, and article 120 forbids Paraguayans from voting from abroad. They also want to change article 4, which establishes the right to life, she said.

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“For this reason we are watching and we will respond accordingly to always defend life,” Brodon said. “Paraguay is pro-life. The young people and all those who participated in our small initiative and in all pro-life activities demonstrate this,” she said.

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