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The Struggle for Abortion Rights in Ecuador

Written by Heather Sayette forRH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at theoriginal post.

Rafael Correa, the popular and newly re-elected leftist president of Ecuador is driving a "citizens' revolution" committed to progressive principles and economic growth. This week he voiced unconditional support for contraception, including emergency contraception. This unprecedented support for access to sexual and reproductive health care is particularly welcome, as women's rights advocates were beginning to wonder what the president's revolution would mean for them.

On paper, the most recent revision to Ecuador's constitution included unprecedented guarantees of gender equality in education, health care, property rights, equal rights in the workplace, protections for female senior citizens, priority services for pregnant women, remuneration for homemakers, and explicit reproductive freedoms such as the right to decide when and how many children to bear.

Despite these recent advances and increases in social services spending, widespread disparities and inequalities in access to health care remain, and access to safe or legal abortion services is nonexistent.

Rates of adolescent pregnancy have skyrocketed in recent years -- Ecuador has the highest rate in the Andean region -- and poor, rural, and indigenous young women are the most likely to become pregnant before becoming adults.  Seventeen percent of teens between the ages of 15 and 19 are already moms, many because of sexual abuse. Complicating the issue even further, Ecuador's current criminal code only allows abortion for victims of rape who are mentally disabled, significantly excluding millions of women in a country where one in four women has been the victim of sexual violence.

Despite significant advocacy by women all over Ecuador, a wealth of evidence illustrating the benefits of decriminalization, and a worldwide trend towards liberalizing abortion laws, the government of Ecuador has not responded with a commonsense policy.


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