Ecuador’s bishops speak out against attempt to liberalize abortion laws

Ecuador’s bishops speak out against attempt to liberalize abortion laws

A woman attends a demonstration in support of decriminalizing abortion, outside the Argentine embassy in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (Credit: Dolores Ochoa/AP.)

After the National assembly in Ecuador approved a new “Organic Health Code,” the local bishops conference questioned its contents on abortion, the use of contraceptives by young girls, conscientious objection and the right to a sexual identity.

ROSARIO, Argentina – After the National assembly in Ecuador approved a new “Organic Health Code,” the local bishops conference questioned its contents on abortion, the use of contraceptives by young girls, conscientious objection and the right to a sexual identity.

According to the bishops, the new health code — approved August 25 — is a threat to the human rights guaranteed by the country’s constitution, last updated in 2008.

In a statement released August 28, the bishops argue that human rights are affected in several ways, beginning with the “right to life from the moment of conception… [by] promoting abortion in an ambiguous or undetermined way, such as obstetric emergency.”

The new code was eight years in the making, and it was approved by Ecuador’s senate. The government’s executive branch now has a month to decide its future.

According to the new code, if a woman presents herself to a medical center at any point after beginning an attempt to terminate her pregnancy, doctors are required to finish the procedure. The bishops argue this provision violates the right of conscience objection for medical personnel by forcing them to intervene in an ongoing abortion.

The bishops – and several local pro-life groups – went on to argue that the article on “obstetric emergency” also forces doctors to cover up abortion, since health care workers no longer have to report it, even though it is illegal in Ecuador. In addition, if a pregnancy is the result of rape, the doctor can perform an abortion at the woman’s request.

According to the National Front for the Family, the proposed regulations will protect sex abusers, since a girl as young as 12 could present herself to medical personnel and demand confidentiality, which would prevent the doctor from going to her parents or the authorities, if the abuser was a member of her family.

The bishops argue that they had the “moral duty” to release their statement, which they do “respecting the roles of the powers of a lay state, as citizens, in the exercise of our right to freedom of expression consecrated in the constitution and the international instrument of human rights, and faithful to our missions to promote and defend human life in all its expressions.”

Among the five reasons they list in which human rights are violated by the new health code, they include the right of parents to educate their children, since the code approves the “indiscriminate use of contraceptives by underage children without their parents’ consent, as well as in the imposition of ideological ideas of gender, that are contrary to their ethical convictions and science.”

Article 115 speaks of a “National Council for Gender Equality,” that is to create a national education protocol to prevent pregnancy among children – through the use of artificial contraception – prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and “all forms of sexual exploitation and discrimination.”

The bishops also said the fact that the new code also allows for surrogacy – although free of charge and only when a woman cannot carry a pregnancy to term – violates the dignity of the human body.

The bishops also note that the code allows for the change of a person’s sex or gender during puberty- while they’re still minors- and said this is a violation of the right to a sexual identity.

The bishops’ statement calls on President Lenin Moreno and his “human sensibility” to veto these articles “free of political and economic pressures.”

To overturn the proposed regulations, the prelates argue, would “favor and defend the integral health of the people, the right to conscientious objection, human life, the primary role of the family within society in the education of their children, as contemplated in the Constitution.”

“We make a strong appeal to those who have institutional responsibilities, asking them to place human rights at the center of all politics, including those of cooperation for an integral human development, even when this implies ‘going against the tide’,” the bishops write, arguing that their sentiment is that of the Christian people and that of “the majority of Ecuadorians.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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