In Reversal, Guatemala Shelves Anti-Abortion Law

In Reversal, Guatemala Cabinets Anti-Abortion Legislation

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala’s congress on Tuesday shelved a invoice that might have imposed as much as 10 years of jail time for ladies who obtained abortions, an abrupt reversal that follows days of protests, authorized challenges and widespread disapproval of the measure, together with from a outstanding anti-abortion group.

The U.S. authorities additionally expressed critical considerations about enacting the laws, which additionally banned same-sex marriage, in back-channel conversations with the Guatemalan authorities, in keeping with two American officers who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate delicate coverage issues.

The nation’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, mentioned he would veto the invoice days after his allies pushed it via the legislature, a transfer that stunned analysts, human rights activists and Guatemalan officers.

On March 9, the day after the invoice handed, Mr. Giammattei attended a ceremony declaring Guatemala the “pro-life capital” of Latin America, the place he mentioned in a speech that he believed “in respect for all times from the second of conception.”

However by Thursday, the president was distancing himself from the invoice. In a brief video handle, Mr. Giammattei mentioned the anti-abortion ceremony shouldn’t be linked to the legislature’s approval of the anti-abortion measure, which he mentioned “suffers from technical deficiencies” and “violates the structure of the republic.”

Officers and human rights activists say the reversal was in all probability prompted by the instant backlash to the approval of the invoice at dwelling and overseas, which made signing it politically dangerous for Guatemala’s profoundly unpopular president.

The invoice, accredited by the legislature final week, on Worldwide Ladies’s Day, would have imposed among the many harshest penalties for abortion of any nation in Latin America and certain would have blocked any motion on L.G.B.T.Q. rights. It might have prohibited educating college students about sexual variety or that homosexual or lesbian intercourse is “regular,” and barred colleges from discussing L.G.B.T.Q. points with kids.

“We anticipated the president to align himself with the regulation,” mentioned Regina Tamés, the deputy director of the ladies’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. “He’s a president that has performed little to nothing to guard human rights basically, and far much less these of ladies and L.G.B.T. individuals.”

In a rustic the place abortion is already unlawful in each case besides when a girl’s life is in danger, the transfer to additional prohibit entry to the process was instantly met with outrage by human rights teams.

In demonstrations that gathered momentum over a number of days, ladies, L.G.B.T.Q. activists and college college students gathered in entrance of Congress to protest the invoice. On Saturday, a whole lot marched via the capital, with a small group of protesters setting fireplace to a Guatemalan flag exterior the Nationwide Palace and chanting that the invoice “doesn’t characterize me.”

Even the Household Issues Affiliation, one of many largest anti-abortion organizations in Guatemala, got here out towards the measure, urging Mr. Giammattei to contemplate the hazard of ratifying a regulation that “might put basic rights and ensures in danger.”

Mr. Giammattei has seen his approval scores sink since taking workplace in 2020, surveys present. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a current CID-Gallup survey mentioned his efficiency was “unhealthy or very unhealthy” — the worst score of the final 10 presidents in Guatemala, in keeping with the evaluation.

The Guatemalan chief has been implicated in two corruption instances, and his legal professional basic has ratcheted up rigidity with the Biden administration by focusing on judges and former prosecutors.

“The president wanted to do one thing to scale back the demonstrations, lest they get uncontrolled,” mentioned Congresswoman Lucrecia Hernández Mack, who voted towards the regulation. “He was in all probability scared that this was going to get louder as a result of it generated lots of outrage on social media and within the streets.”

A bunch of legal professionals filed a authorized problem to the invoice with the nation’s constitutional courtroom, and opposition lawmakers despatched formal objections to the president of Congress. The lawmakers identified explicit issues with a part of the measure that requires a doctor to get the approval of one other physician earlier than performing an abortion to save lots of the lifetime of a mom.

Guatemala has about one physician for each 1,000 individuals, the members of Congress mentioned, which might make it extraordinarily tough for ladies susceptible to maternal dying to obtain an abortion below the regulation.

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