ECUADOR – Justa Libertad: A movement to decriminalise abortion in Ecuador

The Green Wave continues to make strides in Latin America. Justa Libertad, an Ecuadorian coalition of eight civil society organisations, recently filed a lawsuit before the Constitutional Court of Ecuador seeking to decriminalise abortion. This crucial initiative seeks to ensure that women, girls and other pregnant people can access safe abortion care. It follows similar coalitions that achieved progress in other Latin American countries like Colombia, Mexico and Argentina.

Abortion is currently penalised in Ecuador with up to three years in prison, with exceptions for cases in which the pregnancy represents a risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman or, after a 2021 Constitutional Court ruling, when the pregnancy is the result of sexual violence. Even for cases that fit these exceptions, accessing abortion care remains challenging due to stigma among health personnel and others who hold the belief that once pregnant, women and girls are obligated to become mothers.

Amid a movement across Latin America to achieve reproductive justice, decriminalising abortion is an urgent matter. Ecuador should join other countries in taking this step. Regulating abortion via criminal law perpetuates its stigma and disproportionately affects women and girls living in conditions of poverty, including Indigenous and Afro-descendant people.

SOURCE: Human Rights Watch, by Cristina Quijano Carrasco, 15 April 2024 + PHOTO: Outside the Constitutional Court in Quito, by Karen Toro, 19 March 2024