Ecuador votes not to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape

Activists against the depenalization of abortion hold a demonstration outside the Ecuadorean Congress building in Quito Sept 17 2019 Credit Rodrigo Buendia AFP Getty Im Activists against the decriminalization of abortion hold a demonstration outside the Ecuadorian Congress building in Quito, Sept. 17, 2019. | Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.

A bill to decriminalize abortion in all cases of rape failed in the Ecuadorian legislature Tuesday, amid opposition from the Church and civil organizations.

It would have allowed abortion also in cases of non-viable fetal deformity, incest, and nonconsensual artificial insemination.

Sixty-five members of the unicameral National Assembly voted in favor of the bill Sept. 17, five short of the number needed for it to pass. Fifty-nine voted against the bill, and six abstained.

Abortion is legal in Ecuador only in cases of the rape of a woman with mental disabilities or when the mother's life is determined to be at risk.

The bill to decriminalize abortion in some cases was introduced to the full legislature in January.

The proposal was first made in 2016, and it was approved by the legislature's Justice and the Structure of the State Commission in December 2018.

Some legislators proposed that instead of decriminalizing the abortion of children conceived in rape, rapists be given greater penalties.

Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians marched on the streets of Guayaquil in June to protest the bill, as well as to support marriage, conscience protectiosn, and parental rights.

Archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus of Quito issued a statement Sept. 17 saying, "abortion cannot be the answer that a civilized society gives to the pain and anguish of women, men, and their families. Talking about abortion as a solution is a painful irony … abortion cannot be a 'solution', it is a drama, a failure of every society."

"Neither the embryo nor the fetus is a simple part of the mother's body that carries it; it is in it and depends on it, but it is a biologically different reality and is not comparable to any other part of the woman's body. The first solidarity and the first hospitality that every human being finds is the maternal womb. It is the first experience of welcome and tenderness," Archbishop Espinoza continued.

He said, "no law that legalizes the death of a defenseless human being can be ethical … The pregnant woman knows well that she carries a human life in its beginnings."

The archbishop added: "Abortion does not remedy rape. The child conceived through rape is completely innocent. We must work on the prevention and care and protection of girls and young people in our country. Defending the life of the conceived child does not mean defending, protecting, or covering up rapists, or approving violations."

Together with leader of evangelical ecclesial communities, the Archdiocese of Guayaquil organized a day of prayer for life held Sept. 16 that invoked God's wisdom and strength for the country's legislators.

The Ecuadorian constitution states that "girls, boys and adolescents shall enjoy the rights common to human beings, in addition to those specific to their age. The state shall recognize and guarantee life including its care and protection from conception."

An effort to expand abortion access in Ecuador also failed in 2013.

Women who procure abortion in Ecuador can face up to two years imprisonment.

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