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Bolivia Decriminalizes Various Forms of Abortion

The new law eliminates punishment in the case of pregnant girls and adolescents, but still considers the interruption in other cases as a crime and punishes her with up to three years in prison

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Bolivia Decriminalizes Various Forms of Abortion
  • Bolivia proposes to decriminalize abortion in case of extreme poverty
  • The Constitutional Court of Bolivia pronounces against abortion
  • A Bolivian judge is allowed to testify to an 8-year-old girl in front of her alleged rapist

The Bolivian Chamber of Deputies approved Friday Article 153 of a new Penal Code that is being discussed in recent days and has decriminalized several cases of abortion under different assumptions. At same time, law continues to consider terminating pregnancy as a crime and punishing her with up to three years in prison.

If previous Bolivian Penal Code did not punish abortions after rape or when re was a risk to mor's health, current one also declares exempt abortions that, if practiced before eight weeks of pregnancy, were decided by women who wher students or children, seniors or disabled persons in ir care. On or hand, article states that abortion of girls and adolescents will not receive sanction at any stage of pregnancy.

The norm also obliges public health services to provide legends to women who request m and meet requirements already explained, without being able to "claim conscientious objection." This power is recognized only on an "individual" basis to medical personnel and must be expressed in advance. In addition, it does not have validity in case of risk of death for mor.

The conscientious objection was an important topic in debate prior to adoption of this rule, as several medical associations announced that y would welcome it to block in practice planned expansion of legal cases of abortion.

The Colegio de Médicos acted in coordination with Catholic bishops to oppose draft of this law, which was presented by pro-government Movement to Socialism. Although state was declared secular in 2009 and rapeutic abortions are allowed since 1970s, influence of churches on Bolivian population is very strong.

Initially, reform lawmakers wanted to suspend right of physicians and health workers to refuse to provide legatees, but this was considered to be contrary to ir constitutional rights. Finally, House drafted text that was approved and allows for conscientious objection, as long as it is individual and not collective, and at same time forces health services to form centers with staff willing to do work that women require to abide by law.

Anor point of discussion was wher to include poverty as a sufficient condition to suspend sanction of abortion or not. Reform parliamentarians wanted to do it, but point lent itself to attacks of penalizers, who accused m of using abortion as a mechanism of birth control. In end, requirement of socioeconomic status was eliminated, although it remains implicit in decriminalization of abortion for women who have a family to support.

The debate on this law caused a strong polarization in Bolivian society and is unlikely to have happened without majority that has ruling party in Congress. However, issue also divided supporters of President Evo Morales, who did not comment on issue, while several opposition parliamentarians endorsed amendment, which local feminist movement considers "insufficient" but also "a step forward" .


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