Protesters Clash Over Proposed Peru Abortion Law Change
As a Peruvian congressional committee met Tuesday to review a bill allowing limited exceptions to the country's ban on abortion, hundreds of protestors both for and against the measure demonstrated outside. The proposed law would legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or fetal deformity, according to the BBC. Currently abortion is illegal except when the mother's life or health is endangered by the pregnancy.
The Roman Catholic Church's strong opposition to the bill led the committee to backtrack on its original October 7 vote to send the bill to Congress for debate and instead complete a "technical" review of the legislation this week, reports the Agence France-Presse. On Tuesday the committee again voted to send the bill to Congress.
Protestors in the streets of Lima shouted slogans and clashed with riot police. One woman in support of the bill told the BBC, "As citizens-as women that are citizens-we are asking Congress to really talk about this and really think about the women, not about the religious ideologies or the conservative ideologies." Women's groups in Peru report that 376,000 illegal abortions are performed nationwide each year, according to the AFP.
Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, who has spearheaded the Church's lobbying efforts against the bill, calls the measure a "death penalty for the innocent," reports the AFP. A poll released Sunday showed that a slim majority of Peru's population opposes the bill.
Amnesty International has encouraged the Peruvian government to pass the measure and take further steps to legalize abortion. In a press release the organization states, "A woman or girl who has already had her human rights violated as a result of rape, sexual assault or incest must not then have her rights further violated by being criminalized for seeking an abortion...Amnesty International believes that in order to eliminate unsafe abortions and other violations of women's rights, all laws which permit the imprisonment or imposition of any other criminal sanction on women for seeking or having an abortion must be repealed."
Media Resources: BBC 10/21/09, Agence France-Presse 10/20//09, Amnesty International 10/20/09