Bolivian lawmakers have further eased restrictions on abortion in new legislation, sweeping aside fierce opposition by the religious right.
Bolivia Closer to Legalizing Abortion in Case of Rape, Poverty
On Wednesday, the Legislative Assembly voted to allow "students, adolescents or girls" to have abortions up until the eighth week of pregnancy. No age restrictions on mothers have been specified, but it is believed the new law is designed to help girls under the age of 17.
President Evo Morales has said he will sign the measure, despite an outpouring of anger from Catholic and Evangelical churches across the country.
Health Minister Ariana Campero listed abortion as the third-highest cause of maternal deaths in Bolivia, noting that more than 80,000 clandestine abortions are carried out each year.
"They are not safe," she said. "They are induced with herbs or in clandestine places. That’s why this reform helps greatly."
El @SenadoBolivia aprobó el artículo ARTÍCULO 157 (ABORTO) del Proyecto de Ley del #CódigoSistemaPenal en su "estación en detalle". pic.twitter.com/bl09ShYDjI
— Senado de Bolivia (@SenadoBolivia) December 6, 2017
"The @BoliviaSenateapproved the article ARTICLE 157 (ABORTION) of the Bill of the #Penal System Code in its ‘station in detail.’"
Until now, abortion has only permitted when the woman’s life is in danger, in the case of a malformed fetus or in cases of rape or incest.
Feminist groups celebrated the move: Monica Novillo, director of the Coordinator of Women organization, tweeted: "Our demand is the decriminalization! (It) is an… advance in the context of a conservative onslaught… we continue moving towards decriminalization.”
Elizabeth Salguero, a politician within the ruling Movement for Socialism party, said the new laws are a "great step forward for sexual and reproductive rights."
The religious right, however, has threatening to mobilize. Some critics are staging hunger strikes, while others are planning protest marches.
Bolivia Eyes Legalizing Abortion for Women in Extreme Poverty
The spokesman for one national anti-abortion movement, Luis Aruquipa, said the measure "encourages genocide."
In May, Bolivia began talks for another bill that would ease abortion restrictions. Article 152 would modify the penal code to decriminalize abortion when the mother is in extreme poverty or doesn’t have sufficient resources to support a child; if she already has three or more children, or if she is still studying.