Like a chewing gum, the first debate about reforms to the Penal Code was stretched. It started on January 3 and concluded yesterday, after three days and 43 interventions. The reason for this delay is understandable: to buy time (or lose it, depending on how you look at it) until the March elections pass. The consensus among the legislators is that certain issues contained in this project of reforms could be distorted if they were mixed with the electoral interests; In addition, they are issues that no candidate would like to cross by accident. One in particular: the decriminalization of abortion in cases of pregnancy due to rape. So the text of reforms now returns to the Justice Commission, from where it will only return to the Plenary Assembly, for its definitive debate, when there are no more Moors on the coast.
It is a megacode. A “trolley law,” said yesterday the Social Christian César Rohón, composed of an endless series of independent wagons: pardon, rustling, incest, illegal manufacture of medicines, cannabis use for therapeutic purposes … But it is the issue of abortion that it concentrated most of the debate: nine out of ten assembly members referred to it almost exclusively.
The subject arouses so many passions that it is difficult to focus the debate. To the extent that Marcela Aguiñaga, the president of the Justice Commission, where the reform project was prepared, she felt obliged on two occasions to request a point of order in order to specify it. “Gentlemen, the debate is not whether or not we are in favor of life, the debate is: does Ecuadorian society have the right to send to jail a woman who has been raped and who decides to have an abortion? Yes or no”. The clarification did not help much. Still listening to several members of Congress who oppose the reform, there is still the feeling that they were trying to pass a law for compulsory abortion.
And still, in this first power of the secular State, religious arguments sprout spontaneously from the lips of many legislators. Thus, for example, the official Noralma Zambrano, who cited Deuteronomy (“Choose, then, life”), or the ultramontane indigenous assembly of CREO Pedro Curichumbi, who cried out with vehemence: “Life is the very symbol of the love of God Almighty”. Curichumbi painted the bleak panorama that awaits Ecuador to approve the reform: “Abortion will become a sport, a hobby,” he said, and men will gather at parties, between the excesses of alcohol and drugs, to write the list of women to continue violating.
Otherwise, the positions of the blocks are becoming clear. The Social Christians (announced by César Rohón) will vote against the reform, that is, in favor of the criminalization of abortion in cases of pregnancy due to rape. CREO has released its members: along with the conservatives Héctor Yépez, Roberto Gómez and Pedro Curichumbi, who oppose the reform, the names of Jeannine Cruz and Gloria Astudillo, who replaces Esteban Bernal and premiered yesterday at the Assembly with a heated speech in favor of the freedom of choice of women. “I do not always agree with my block mates,” Cruz explained.
As for the correístas, this year they are lucky not to have the presence in the country of their leader, Rafael Correa. They can, therefore, express the opinions that were publicly forbidden to them the last time this issue was discussed in the Assembly, in 2014. Liliana Durán, for example, can call for considering abortion as a topic related to public health, not with the creeds. And Pabel Muñoz can hang a green handkerchief from his microphone and proclaim: “We do not understand that the left and the progressive sector can turn their backs on the feminist cause”. Rare: just five years ago it was crystal clear.
The victims, helpless
To enrich the debate, the Assembly received in general commission Jessica Jaramillo, feminist militant and president of the foundation that bears her name. She offered a dramatic first-person testimony about the hardships that await a sexually abused woman in the judicial labyrinth. “You have to stop talking and put yourself in the shoes of the victims,” he said. (I)