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In Ecuador, a Rape Survivor Must Be “an Idiot or Demented” to Get an Abortion

In Ecuador, a Rape Survivor Must Be “an Idiot or Demented” to Get an Abortion

Ecuador’s draconian abortion laws put the lives of rape survivors at risk, according to a Human Rights Watch report issued this week.

As the law stands in the South American country, a woman can only obtain an abortion if she is deemed to be “an idiot or demented,” or if the health or life of the woman is at risk, regardless of how she got pregnant. Otherwise, women and girls have no access to a legal abortion. In fact, it’s a crime both for a woman to seek and abortion and for a doctor to provide one.

According to Human Rights Watch:

The criminal code imposes penalties including prison terms ranging from one to five years for women and girls who obtain abortions. Medical professionals who provide them are subject to harsher penalties. These penalties drive some women and girls to have illegal and unsafe abortions, thwarting Ecuador’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality and injury.

Ecuador has a relatively high maternal mortality rate, with 110 deaths per 100,000 births according to data from 2010. For comparison, the United States has 21 deaths per 100,000 births.

This is a problem for all women in Ecuador, to be sure, but it’s especially acute for rape survivors. A 2011 government survey showed that one in four Ecuadorean women have been victims of sexual violence. If a pregnancy results from a rape, the survivor is really between a rock and a hard place.

“Ecuador’s abortion law drives women who are rape victims to take desperate measures. Doctors by law have to deny an abortion to a woman who has been raped and who is not considered an idiot or demented. The language is from the 1930s,” Amanda Klasing, Americas women’s rights researcher at HRW, told Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview in Washington.

“A woman or girl who has suffered the trauma of rape shouldn’t have to face the prospect of going to jail if she chooses to get an abortion. They shouldn’t be in a position where they are seen as criminals by the state,” she added.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Ecuador’s abortion restrictions will be lifted, or even eased, anytime soon. The country’s president, Rafael Correa, has been vocal about his opposition to easing abortion restrictions and he has a lot of support for that position among lawmakers.

Even though access to legal abortion services is severely restricted, women and girls are still getting the procedure illegally. According to HRW, complications from abortion killed at least 10 women or girls in Ecuador in 2011. However, that number could be higher because the deaths may be attributed to medical conditions related to the abortion, but not the abortion itself.

Restrictive abortion laws haven’t been shown to decrease the numbers of abortions, just the numbers of safe and legal abortions. According to a 2008 study by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute, Latin America has some of the highest abortion rates in the world. The region also happens to have some of the most stringent abortion restrictions.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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5:54AM PDT on Mar 23, 2015

So sad! every woman should has the right to decide

6:43PM PDT on Oct 16, 2013

An proposal wasn't passed as expected. Women in Ecuador still seem affraid to confront society and government on this issues.

2:18PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

Stand-up for Women's rights world-wide.

9:14PM PDT on Sep 9, 2013

As I recall, Ecuador has a relatively left-leaning government at the moment, along with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Uruguay. Unfortunately, it's not enlightened enough about the right of women to choose their reproductive life.

10:52PM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

It's not as easy as you think to have a child from your rapist and give it up for adoption... It's not a stuffed animal, it's a human being, it's your child and it has your rapist's face, you can't handle this, you never asked for a kid, and giving it away only makes u wonder for the rest of your life whether you're a criminal for doing so, and why you miss him so much, and the horror, will you ever meet him in the bus one day and see your rapist in his eyes?

Please, have some bloody compassion for victims! Others should use contraceptives, this is not the stone age anymore. But victims never asked for this and don't deserve the pain of being told what to do, it's like being raped twice!

3:32PM PDT on Sep 4, 2013

The "exceptions" to their rules on abortion show how stupid the ideas are. There should be no grey areas if they really believe that life begins at conception. No one knows exactly when life begins, God nor Science has told us. It is pure arogance for some people to put their religious beliefs onto other's.

4:01AM PDT on Sep 4, 2013

Those who enforce this law seem to be demented or idiots.

11:14AM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Sharon R, it's called REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM!!

9:43AM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Abortion should be OUR choice, no matter what! We still have a very long way to go.

9:41AM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Abortion should be legal in any case most of it in case of rape. There's a human overpopulation so abortion is an exit to that and many things.

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