The Honduran Congress banned abortion decades ago when Argentina legalized it in a historic decision.
Ever since the Congress of Honduras banned abortion in its entirety, the ranks of a feminist organization that has been campaigning for decriminalization have swelled in a radical conservative nation.
Most of the new recruits in the women’s rights group, Somos Muchas, are young women between the ages of 18 and 30, who have been dropped from recent events. For local activists, this is a sign that change is still possible in a country with some of the most severe restrictions on abortion in the world.
“They did it out of fear,” said Neesa Medina, an activist with Somos Muchas about the legalists’ push to reinforce prohibition. “Because they think they can ban the future. But you can’t ban the future.”
In any situation since 1985, even rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger, Honduras is forbidden to terminate a pregnancy.
Congress has now explicitly put a legal lock on that position by adding an abortion ban to its constitution and setting the number of votes needed to make future changes at the highest level at three-quarters of Congress.
A chorus of international organizations, including the United Nations and the European Parliament, sounded the alarm, and urged the legislative body to reconsider a move that he said would not only violate human rights standards but would further harm women and girls.
Response to Argentina
Congress ratified the amendment on January 28 and celebrated ratification on Twitter, where it shared messages of congratulations from politicians and anti-legal groups around the world, including Spain, Colombia, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
The Twitter account of the National Congress reads, “This state power is committed to continuing to defend and fight for life.”
The National Congress thanked each social institution, who praised and congratulated the constitutional reform of Article 67 of the project “Shield Against Abortion”, the power of the state committed to continue the rescue and fight for life. https://t.co/cdGfAipDK4
– National Congress (@Congreso_HND) January 29, 2021
Her decision came as feminist movements in Latin America, especially after Argentina’s legalization of voluntary abortion until the 14th week, are revisiting their prominence.
The site was approved in December by campaigners as a sign of things to come in the area – and a Honduran legislator for the ruling National Party, Mario Perez, drafted a “shield against abortion in Honduras’ law” , Which he hopes serve as a “padlock” against future legalization efforts. Honduras is also in the midst of an election campaign.
“Honduras is a country that is very Christian, most of us are Christians, and I would like to think that on the street, in the valley, people will not [be in support of legalisation], “Perez said in an earlier interview.
Honduras is one of six countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that completely prohibits abortion.
Many allow this in certain circumstances, such as rape or if the mother’s life is at risk. Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca allow women to terminate pregnancies at an early stage without assigning reasons.
But as long as it is illegal and subject to three to 10 years in prison for a woman or medical practitioner, Honduras is still secretly having an abortion, and sometimes dangerous, settings – and those who violate the law They are caught and sent to jail.
According to a working group of UN experts, there are an estimated 51,000 to 82,000 unsafe abortions every year. Emergency contraception has also been banned, and UN experts say that, along with the lack of access to contraception in general, contributes to higher rates of unwanted pregnancy.
Honduras has the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in Latin America. One in four girls under the age of 19 are pregnant at least once.
Somos Muchas has organized an online orientation session to walk new, young activists through its mandate. The group is also formulating strategies to challenge the legislative changes and to obtain health information for women.
But meanwhile, Medina said the recent reforms would create more fear on the ground. “In Honduras, there are women who have abortions, and they are too afraid to look for help because the only thing they hear is that abortion is a crime; it’s bad,” she said. “Some words of compassion for them Huh.”
Regina Fonseca, a psychologist, longtime feminist and founder of the Center for Women’s Rights in Honduras, also said that the stricter prohibition would result in an increase in value.
“And it affects poor and young women, who have less access to resources, and may submit themselves to dangerous practices, which can lead to more deaths,” she said.
Human Rights Watch said, “The reform violates international human rights law, which establishes that depriving women and girls of abortion is a form of discrimination and endangers a range of human rights.”
It also stated that the bill refers to Article 4 (1) of the US Convention on “Deceptive” Human Rights, which protects the right to life.
“The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has clarified that Article 4 (1) does not recognize full right to life before birth. The court has also found that the fetus cannot be considered a human being for the purposes of Article 4 (1). “
Legislators defend the move of a religious group
But members of the conservative National Party of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, along with religious forces, said it is life, which must be protected.
Pastor Oswaldo Canales, president of the Evangelical Confraterness of Honduras, said in a public consultation session with religious leaders, “Abortion is murder, it is killing a person who wishes to be born. Don’t.”
During the same session, Mauricio Oliva, president of the National Congress, said that Honduras could not “follow in the footsteps of evil” taken by other countries, who “made an act as infamous as the growing life of a fetus” Legalized “.
In a statement by Al Jazeera, National Party member and Secretary of the National Congress Tomas Zambrano said that the legislators are aware of the arguments made by human rights groups and the United Nations.
“It is a measure that has to do with synergy with our values and social and cultural principles that make us unique as a society and which should be protected and respected according to the principle of free determination of people, which is protected Is also. The Charter of the United Nations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “he said.
The government said the ratification vote was in favor of 90 in the Congress with 128 seats, but the number of votes against it was not specified or if there was any dissent.
Fonseca said the process was repeated with “discrepancies” and that activists intend to fight the outcome in the Supreme Court, although the timeline is not yet clear. There is also discussion about whether activists should start working publicly to share information about safe abortion practices.
Fonseca said, “There is a lot of international support and solidarity, there are more people who understand contempt for women a little bit better, and it helps us to work with more public support,” local mainstream media attention of.
Still, Medina said she encouraged the number of legislators who did not approve the measure, as it was more than the number supporting the bid to relax alcoholism in 2017. Only eight of the 128 legislators voted that year to allow abortion in rape cases, incest, when the mother’s life is in danger, or when the fetus cannot stay out of the womb.
“You can see cracks in the system, and that’s why they are closing the ranks,” Medina said. “And it is in those cracks that it will all be uprooted.”