Proposal to decriminalise abortion in Venezuela

The Venezuelan National Assembly (NA) is considering a bill to decriminalise abortion, but only in restricted cases, the June 10 Ultimas Noticias reported.

It was one of the proposals of the committee for the rights of women in the NA. It is part of a raft of proposals to be considered in changes to a new penal code, to eliminate gender bias.

NA deputy Flor Rios, president of the committee, explained that decriminalisation would be sought in case of rape, incest and when the pregnancy put the life of the mother at risk. However, it remains to be seen if these changes pass through the NA.

“There are more than four million illegal abortions a year in the Latin American region, linked to over 4,000 avoidable deaths. And in some countries, like Argentina, there are nearly as many abortions as births”, IPS reported on March 10.

“In the view of [Uruguayan sociologist Moriana] Hernandez and other analysts, setbacks to or the lack of progress with respect to women’s right to choice are the result of a fundamentalist offensive by the Catholic Church to keep Latin America a land free of abortions — legal ones, at least.

“A total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or a threat to the mother's life, was adopted in Nicaragua in 2006; in Uruguay a presidential veto overruled the legalisation of abortion in 2008; and in the Dominican Republic, the right to life from the moment of conception was enshrined in the constitution in 2009.”

Ironically, there have been moves toward liberalising abortion in Mexico and Colombia, which have the most conservative governments in Latin America.

In Colombia, the Constitutional Court legalised abortion for cases of rape, incest and foetal malformations in 2006 — the five magistrates who voted for this ruling were immediately excommunicated by the Catholic Church.

In Mexico, first trimester abortions were legalised by the left-leaning government of the Federal District (Mexico City) in 2007. However, in the backlash that followed 17 of Mexico’s 32 states strengthened anti-abortion laws.

Venezuela has a high rate of teenage pregnancies. A common abortion inducing drug can be bought for 200 bolivars (US$50), however its medically unsupervised use means women risking death through loss of blood.

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