(PRESS RELEASE) The Honduran Congress halted a historic opportunity to reform the country’s total abortion ban.
On Thursday, Congress refused to amend the abortion law in adopting a new penal code. Honduras will continue to criminalize abortion under all circumstances, a measure which has jeopardized the health and lives of countless women for the past 30 years.
Under the new penal code, any woman found guilty of obtaining an abortion could still be sentenced to up to eight years in prison. The penal code now heads to President Juan Orlando Hernandez who is expected to approve the new legislation.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Honduran politicians have refused to take a historic step to protect women’s health and lives.
“This is a setback in the battle for women’s rights in Honduras. But this fight is far from over.
“We are committed to working with Honduran advocates and the international community to one day finally achieve abortion law reform.”
Honduras is currently one of only seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that completely bans abortion without any explicit exceptions. The country also has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world, with a woman reporting sexual violence every three hours. There is also an absolute ban on emergency contraception in Honduras that, combined with the total abortion ban, forces women to choose between carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term or seeking an unsafe abortion.
In April, United Nations experts urged the Honduran Congress to adopt progressive law reform in order to protect the rights of women and girls. U.N. experts noted the calls from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee against Torture, and members of the Human Rights Council, to lift the abortion ban and allow access to safe abortion services in limited circumstances.
“Congress cast aside repeated calls from international human rights experts and the United Nations to bring an end to Honduras’s extreme abortion ban, said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Abortion bans and restrictions on reproductive health services criminalize women–affecting the most vulnerable. Honduras will continue to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to respecting and protecting women’s human rights.”
According to a Center report, over 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.