Costa Rican president signs decree to allow some abortions

Pregnant woman Credit Unsplash CNA Unsplash.

Costa Rica's president on Dec. 12 issued a technical decree that defines the conditions under which a doctor may perform an abortion when doctors consider it necessary to preserve the life of the mother.

President Carlos Alvarado on Thursday signed the decree that, while not changing any laws, lays out how a woman may legally choose abortion in some circumstances.

Bishop José Manuel Garita Herrera of Ciudad Quesada spoke out against the decree and urged respect for both lives- that of the mother and of the child in her womb.

"To doctors, my call is also that, faithful to the principle and vocation to which they have consecrated themselves, allow them to place their gifts at the service of the mother and her son," Bishop Herrera said, as reported by CNA's Spanish-language news partner ACI Prensa.

"The text presented by the government authorities must not ignore the life of the human being that has developed in the womb...God protect and enlighten Costa Rica so that all those responsible for this policy always seek the good of both lives."

The government had announced in early 2019 that the technical norm was being drafted by a team from the Department of Health and was going to be signed by the president during this year.

"Far from making our country progress in true respect for human rights, [the decree] would make it disrespect the most absolute of those rights in the unborn person," Archbishop José Rafael Quirós of San José said in an Oct. 11 letter to the president.

Health Minister Daniel Salas said in a statement that abortions can be performed if there is no other medical alternative; if the woman gives consent; and after mandatory evaluation by three medical professionals, Reuters reports.

Pro-life advocates argue that abortion is never medically necessary, and that, although a woman may sometimes need to undergo a procedure that will lead to the child's death in order to alleviate a medical condition, this is not the same as directly and intentionally killing the baby.

Abortion was decriminalized in Costa Rica in 1971 through Article 121 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that an abortion performed with the consent of a woman by a doctor is not punishable when done to save the mother's life, and in the absence of other options. However, many doctors have been unwilling to perform abortions, citing the lack of a protocol clarifying the exact conditions in which it is permitted and procedures to follow, Tico Times reports.

In August, thousands participated in the March for Life in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, urging that the president not sign the technical regulation.

Days prior to the march, the Costa Rican bishops' conference invited all citizens to participate, and thanked the secular organizations that "with great dedication and zeal for promoting the culture of life, have organized this event."

The country's social security system has six months to enact the new norms, Tico Times reports.

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