With the Constitutional Court of Ecuador passing the verdict of decriminalizing abortion in all instances of rape, Ecuador has joined the group of countries who have decriminalized abortion in selective cases. The passing of this verdict has allowed the Ecuadorian women who had been raped and wanted abortion, to no longer be penalised for their actions. The judges of the Ecuador Constitutional Court had decriminalized the two articles with the ratio of 7 against 2 in favour of the verdict. Before, the law only allowed for this procedure only in the instance of critical risk to woman’s health or if a raped woman had a mental disability. Abortion under the two selective conditions has been legal since 1938.
Ecuador being in Latin America is heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Majority of the populace practice Catholic values and centre around the concepts of marriage, consummation, gift of life, sanctity which are directly at odds with the notion of abortion. The Constitution of Ecuador hinges on the ethics of social justice, secularism etc, thus making the legitimization of abortion constitutionally compelling at the state and the national level.
The Comprehensive Penal Code (COIP) under Article 149 and 150 criminalized abortion and punished both the woman who is having abortion and the doctor who performs it with a term varying between six months to two years and one to three years in prison respectively. These provisions have been active since the inception of the Ecuador Penal Code in 1837 and were directly violating article 12 of Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which Ecuador had ratified in 1981. The penal provisions are heavily biased against women.
The criminalization of abortion has harmed women and girls’ ability to access vital reproductive health services while also exacerbating discrimination and inequalities and criminal penalties for consensual abortion should be abolished in Ecuador. Criminalization of abortion has been a predominant notion in the minds of majority of the Ecuadorian populace. The National Assembly of Ecuador in 2019 had been against decriminalization of abortion in any instance of rape except the existing 2 conditions.
In Ecuador, the discussion on termination of pregnancy is still very limited, focusing on the beginning of life and the legal independence of the foetus and the woman, and the same independent right to life as a woman. It is undeniable that, for many people, the real issues in the abortion debate centres around the natural rights of a woman such as right to sexual autonomy, reproductive autonomy, privacy, maternity etc. These rights have been dealt with severe blows by the overlapping patricentric influence of the Catholic Church and the government.
Ecuador’s anti-abortion laws violate women’s rights and put their lives and health at risk. These laws have costed many women and girls their lives by preventing them from accessing medical and necessary services and have severely undermined their sexual, reproductive and maternity health issues. Gross violation of medical confidentiality and privacy rights have been faced by women who have been accused of ending their unwanted pregnancy or having a miscarriage or aborting through other means. The prosecutions by these laws have had a draconian effect on the lives of the female populace.
The Ecuadorian Constitutional Court decided to take a step forward in recognizing victims of sexual violence’s sexual and reproductive rights. In this sense, decriminalizing abortion for rape is undeniably an important step forward in terms of human rights. Ecuador is now a little less unjust and violent in its treatment of women, girls, and adolescents. Currently, a raped woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy is no longer at risk of being prosecuted unfairly. In the country, there is a lot of unfinished business when it comes to women’s rights. As a result, the fight must continue.
• (2021) ‘Ecuador abortion: Terminations in cases of rape decriminalised’, BBC, 29 April. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-56913947 (Accessed: 25 July 2021).
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• Robalino, Atty Claudia. (2020) ‘Abortion in Ecuador: A Matter of Female Autonomy and Social Justice’, The Cornell Healthcare Review, 3 August. Available at: https://blogs.cornell.edu/healthreview/2020/03/08/abortion-in-ecuador-a-matter-of-female-autonomy-and-social-justice-by-atty-claudia-robali no/ (Accessed: 25 July 2021).
• Benarroch, Elias L. (2021) ‘Ecuador’s Constitutional Court approves abortion for rape in historic ruling’, Agencia EFE, 29 April. Available at: https://www.efe.com/efe/america/sociedad/la-corte-constitucional-de-ecuador-aprueba-el-aborto-por-violacion-en-un-fallo-historico/20000013-4523739 (Accessed: 25 July 2021).
• ‘Ecuador’s Abortion Provisions’, CENTRE for REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS Available at: https://maps.reproductiverights.org/world-abortion-laws/ecu adors-abortion-provisions (Accessed: 25 July 2021).
• ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women New York, 18 December 1979’, UNITED NATIONS Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/profession alinterest/ pages/cedaw.aspx. (Accessed: 25 July 2021).
• (2021) ‘Why Do They Want to Make Me Suffer Again? The Impact of Abortion Prosecutions in Ecuador’, Human Rights Watch, 14 July. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/07/14/why-do-they-want-make-me-suffer-again/im pact-abortion-prosecutions-ecuador (Accessed: 26 July 2021).
• (2021) ‘Ecuador: Criminalizing Abortion Affects Rights, Health Greatest Harm for Indigenous, Afro-Descendent People Living in Poverty’, Human Rights Watch, 14 July. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/14/ecuador-criminalizing-abortion-affects-rights-health (Accessed: 26 July 2021).
• Brown, Kimberley. (2019) ‘ ‘Big step but not enough’: Ecuador debates easing abortion law in rape cases’, Reuters, 5 March. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecuador-women-abortion-idUSKCN1QM0J 9 (Accessed: 26 July 2021).
• Miller, Gary. (2021) ‘Ecuador’s abortion laws discriminate against ethnic minority women: report | Women’s rights and gender equality’, Insider Voice, 15 July. Available at: https://insider-voice.com/ecuadors-abortion-laws-discriminate-against-ethnic-minority-women-report-womens-rights-and-gender -equality/ (Accessed: 26 July 2021).
• Almeida, Desiree Viteri. (2021) ‘Decriminalization Of Abortion In Case Of Rape In Ecuador’, The Organization for World Peace, 26 May. Available at: https://theowp.org/reports/decriminalization-of-abortion-in-case-of-rape-in-ecuador/ (Accessed: 26 July 2021).