15 March 2017, The Tablet

Church in Bolivia condemns draft law to allow abortion in cases of 'extreme poverty'

The new law also proposes that a woman can terminate a pregnancy if she is already the mother of three or more children or if she is a student

The Catholic church in Bolivia has condemned a draft law which would allow abortion in cases where the mother is living in ‘extreme poverty’.

Abortion is currently only allowed in the South American nation in cases of rape or incest, or if the woman’s health or life is at risk, however the draft bill – put forward by the country’s Plurinational Legislative Assemblyas part of a project to reform Bolivia's penal system – would allow women living in extreme poverty and without sufficient resources, to have an abortion within the first eight weeks of a pregnancy.

"The proposal distorts the criminal justice system, introducing poverty as a reason for the impunity for crimes such as infanticide and euthanasia, as if being poor is a sufficient justification to violate any law", the country’s bishops said in a statement sent to Fides News on 15 March.

The new law also proposes that a woman can terminate a pregnancy if she is already the mother of three or more children or if she is a student, reports Fides News.

“Life is a gift from God and no one can dispose of it under any circumstances,” said Bishop Aurelio Pesoa Ribera, the Secretary General of the Bishop’s Conference.

“The proposal introduces a foreign ideological colonialisation that discards boys and girls born in fragile situations and accepts the sad violence of abortion as a way of providing solutions to social and economic problems," continues the statement. 

The bishops insist that the draft law goes against the Constitution, which establishes the right to life, and against the Civil Code, which recognises this right from conception.

“As the Church, we cannot accept these premises. The state has the obligation to implement public policies aimed at improving the lives of people and policies of support to pregnant woman, as well as violence prevention," say the bishops. 

Bolivia relaxed their strict abortion laws in 2014 by allowing women seeking a legal abortion in cases of rape or incest to have the procedure without firstly gaining permission from a judge, making it easier and quicker for women to have a legal abortion.

Previously, women in Bolivia were ‘routinely’ denied authorisation from a judge to go ahead with a legal abortion, leaving them no recourse than to turn to unsafe and illegal abortions, global non-governmental organisation on reproductive right, Ipas, said. 

Yet, according to Ipas, 185 illegal abortions are still performed daily in Bolivia.

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