The Honduran Congress has moved to set their strong abortion laws ‘in stone’ after a constitutional amendment was brought forward that would require three quarters of the Congress to vote in favour of changing the abortion law.
On Thursday 21st January, the Congress voted 88 to 28 in favour of measures that would require a majority, 96 out of 128 members of Congress, in order to modify the existing abortion law. Previously, constitutional amendments were permitted with a two-thirds majority, but this raising of the bar means that it will be very difficult for future legislators to change the law on abortion.
The requirement that there be a super-majority must undergo a second vote before it is ratified. The clear support displayed in the vote last Thursday however, makes it highly likely that the vote will pass.
While international media outlets have described legislation in the country as “prohibiting abortion in any circumstance”, local media have reported that data from the Honduran Social Security Institute shows that abortions appear to be performed in the country under an interpretation of the law to allow for abortion if a women’s life is at risk during a pregnancy.
‘Shield Against Abortion’
According to the Honduran Congress website, this move has been called the “Escudo Contra el Aborto en Honduras” – “Shield Against Abortion in Honduras”.
Mario Pérez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, proposed the measure last week, calling it a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future changes to the abortion law.
“Every human being has the right to life from the moment of conception,” said Mr Pérez.
Congresswoman Gloria Bonilla of the Liberal Party in Honduras said: “As a woman and a mother, I am in favour of life and against abortion, I want to speak on behalf of those who are in the mother’s womb and cannot be opposed”.
A small group of activists at the UN criticised the Honduran Congress, branding the Bill “alarming” and accused the country of “moving backwards” because it recognises the right to life of babies in the womb.
Abortion in Central and South America
The proposer of the Bill, Mario Pérez, explicitly said that his Bill was a response to the “the wave of constitutional reforms in Latin American countries, promoted by leftist governments led to legalize abortion, as happened in Argentina recently, and that cannot be allowed in Honduras”.
Argentina, has recently loosened its legal protections for unborn babies. In December last year, Argentina’s Senate voted in favour of introducing abortion on demand into the country despite the widespread opposition to this move. Earlier in 2020, thousands joined in pro-life demonstrations, which, according to organisers, took place in across more than 500 cities in Argentina in opposition to a bill that would legalise abortion on demand.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Predictably, most Western media is horrified at the thought that babies in the womb deserve legal protection and the suggestion that there might be anything wrong with abortion, so the uproar that this legislation has caused in other countries is hardly surprising.”