New dawn?

Legal reforms in Bolivia may expand abortion rights

Activists participate in a rally against a proposed law to legalize abortion in La Paz, Bolivia, May 23, 2017. The words on the banner read: "Third month of life" (L) and "Abortion is never safe, it always kills a person". (REUTERS/David Mercado)

Lawmakers in Bolivia are currently overhauling the country’s penal code, and one proposed revision seeks to relax restrictive abortion rules. Earlier this year, activists took to the street in protest of the proposed law.

As The Guardian reports, Bolivia currently bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother. The new article, which is headed for debate in the lower house of Congress, would permit a woman to terminate her pregnancy within the first eight weeks if she is homeless or lives in extreme poverty, if she cannot support herself or other dependents, or if she is a student.

The article would also allows abortion if the life of the mother is threatened, if her health is severely threatened, if fatal fetal abnormalities are detected, if she is a victim of rape or incest, or if she is underage.

Women who do not meet these criteria would still face up to three years of jail time for undergoing an abortion. But reproductive rights activists say that the proposed article is a positive step forward for Bolivia, where restrictive abortion laws regularly prompt women to seek out illicit — and dangerous — procedures.

“The Women’s Hospital of La Paz reported that in 2015, 10 women a day were admitted in a critical state as a result of botched illegal abortions,” The Guardian reports. “Underground abortions are the third most prevalent cause of maternal mortality, according to the Bolivian ministry of health.”

The lower house of congress is expected to debate the article by mid-July, and the rest of the new code in is likely to get passed by the end of the month. The legislation, including the provisions on abortions, will then head to the Senate for approval.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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