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Guatemala seeks to ban access to abortions

ABORTION rights and same-sex marriage are under threat in Guatemala as a Bill to “protect family and life” is set to be debated in the country’s parliament this week.

Rightwingers are mobilising a demonstration on Sunday to press for the passing of Bill 5272, which would ban abortions, same sex marriage and sex education.

Opposition groups and women’s rights activists have warned the bill will “criminalise” women with jail sentences of between five and 10 years proposed for those who have clandestine abortions.

Those who have a miscarriage could also face prosecution under the legislation with those recovering facing a grilling by the authorities over their “abortion by negligence.” If found guilty they could face a four-year prison sentence.

The law would seriously limit access to terminations for working-class women, with only those wealthy enough to leave the country being able to access the procedure abroad.

Bill 5272 was initially promoted by the National Evangelical Co-ordinator last year and presented in the Guatemalan Congress by Linares Beltranena and Anibal Rojas, right-wing MPs from the Vision With Values Party (VIVA). Mr Rojas, who is the deputy leader of Congress is also head of the parliamentary Women’s Commission.

It was initially due to be debated last Wednesday but was suspended because Congress was inquorate.

Under Guatemalan law terminations are only legal when there is a threat to the health of the mother. But the Bill would make access to abortions even tighter with women required to seek alternative solutions and approval from two independent specialists prior to any procedure being sanctioned.

It also proposes increasing jail terms to up to 50 years for those who carry out terminations, limiting access to even clandestine procedures.

Women’s rights campaign group Prensa Comunitaria warned the Bill “attacks liberty and women’s life” and called on parliamentarians to reject it when it is presented in Congress.

The Bill also proposes the rejection of same-sex relationships, officially defining the family unit as a “mother, father and children” which campaigners argue discriminates against the LGBT community.

Women’s rights are coming increasingly under threat across the region largely led by the influential Catholic church.

In Argentina, a bill which would have allowed free and legal access to abortions was rejected by the country’s Senate despite widespread public support.

Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American nations to have decriminalised abortion.

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