1-22-21 Honduran abortion law: Congress moves to set total ban 'in stone'
Parliament in Honduras has initially approved a bill that will make it virtually impossible to legalise abortion in the country. The new measure will require at least three-quarters of Congress to vote in favour of modifying the abortion law, which is among the strictest in world. Honduras forbids abortion under any circumstance, even rape or incest. Its latest move comes in response to Argentina legalising abortion last month. Across Latin America, there has been increased pro-choice campaigning, known as the "green wave", based on the colour worn by protesters. The new legislation in Honduras hinges on an article in the constitution that gives a fetus the same legal status of a person. Constitutional changes have until now been permitted with a two-thirds majority, but the new legislation raises that bar to three-quarters within the 128-member body. The measure still needs to be ratified by a second vote. However, support was clear on Thursday: with 88 legislators voting in favour, 28 opposed and seven abstentions. Honduras has a stanchly conservative majority, which referred to the measure as a "shield against abortion". "What they did was set this article in stone because we can never reform it if 96 votes are needed [out of 128]", opposition MP Doris Gutiérrez told AFP news agency. Mario Pérez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, formally proposed the change last week, calling it a "constitutional lock" to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law. "Every human being has the right to life from the moment of conception," said Mr Pérez. Ahead of the vote, UN human rights experts condemned the move, saying in a statement: "This bill is alarming. Instead of taking a step towards fulfilling the fundamental rights of women and girls, the country is moving backwards."
1-9-21 Covid: Locked-down women turn to pills amid Malta abortion ban
Catholic Malta has the strictest ban on abortion in the EU, but during the pandemic more Maltese women have been ordering abortion pills from abroad, unable to travel because of the lockdown. Veronica - not her real name - was among them. "It was a big burden for me. I already have two kids with learning difficulties. I came off the [contraceptive] pill, as the doctor suggested I switch to an IUD for health reasons. I was waiting for the appointment, but Covid came and cancelled all the hospital appointments." Not long after that Veronica got pregnant. "I had to decide what is best for me and the children," she says. "The best for my health, the best financially… plus the father immediately told me to abort." Abortion is completely illegal in Malta, even if the woman's life is at risk. Without the option of travelling abroad, Veronica didn't know what to do. She contacted local women's rights activists, who put her in touch with a foreign NGO. It was through them that Veronica was able to safely get hold of abortion pills, which can be taken up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Abortion is a crime in Malta, punishable by up to three years' prison for the woman herself and anybody who may have assisted her. An estimated 300-400 Maltese women travel abroad every year to get an abortion, usually to the UK. But pandemic travel restrictions have made this option far less viable. The Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a UK-based charity offering information and funding to cover the cost of travel and accessing abortion. It had 110 Maltese requests in 2020 - up from 75 the previous year, when it first opened up services to the Maltese. According to ASN founder Mara Clarke, the pandemic has been a social leveller. "When they close the airport and you live on an island, suddenly it gives everybody a taste of what it means to live in a place where there is a horrible abortion law." It is not clear if the rise in requests is down to increased numbers of women wanting abortions, or increased awareness that help is out there.