UN experts condemn constitutional reform that would deny the right to safe abortion in Honduras

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Following a warning sent by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, Somos Muchas and Equipo Jurídico por los Derechos Humanos, several UN special mechanisms such as the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, and the Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Health and on Violence against Women condemned the constitutional reform project that seeks to block any progress on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in Honduras.

The dangerous reform, issued by a congressman of the ruling National Party, seeks to include an absolute ban of abortion services under any circumstances in article 67 of the Honduran Constitution, which is a major step backwards in the advancement of human rights. The UN experts consider that blocking the possibility of abortion in Honduras violates the right to life and health. The experts have emphasized that restrictive abortion laws increase maternal mortality and morbidity rates due to unsafe clandestine abortions while being ineffective in preventing such procedures.

In the letter sent to the UN special mechanisms, the undersigning organizations explained that Honduras is one of the most restrictive countries in the world in terms of access to reproductive health services, since it criminalizes abortion in all circumstances, and prohibits the distribution of the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), even for victims of sexual violence.

In Honduras, access to abortion is prohibited even under circumstances such as when the life or health of the woman is at risk, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when the pregnancy is incompatible with extra-uterine life.

The experts recognized how precarious sexual and reproductive health services are in this country and noted that the constitutional reform would "block any possible progress on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in Honduras, a country where one in four girls has been pregnant at least once before reaching the age of 19”.

The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls visited Honduras in 2019 and was informed by the civil society that the number of unsafe abortions might be as high as 51,000 to 82,000 per year.

Regarding the dangerous project of constitutional reform, the experts pointed out how alarming it is and that "instead of taking a step towards the fulfillment of the fundamental rights of women and girls, the country is moving backward". They added that "the criminalization of abortion and the obligation of health professionals to report cases of women whose injuries appear to be related to unsafe abortions, have resulted in the imprisonment of women".

Honduras fails to comply with its international obligations by preventing the voluntary termination of pregnancy to be an essential health service, as established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by international human rights law. Both have indicated that states may establish measures to regulate access to abortion without violating the fundamental rights of women and girls. Therefore, they have recommended that States reform or revoke laws that criminalize abortion, even considering that the denial or delay of this health service is a form of gender-based violence that can reach the level of torture.

For these reasons, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, Somos Muchas,  and Equipo Jurídico por los Derechos Humanos reject this dangerous constitutional reform because it violates the international commitments assumed by the Honduran State and constitutes a direct and reinforced threat to the human rights of women and girls. We demand the Honduran State to comply with its obligations and with the many recommendations made by international human rights bodies to reform its law and allow safe, legal abortion to protect the health and lives of thousands of women and girls, especially those living in vulnerable conditions in rural areas.

Warning letter: bit.ly/CartaHonduras

UN Statement: http://bit.ly/OHCHRh

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MEDIA CONTACT: Daniel Ruge, druge@reprorights.org