‘Big step but not enough’: Ecuador debates easing abortion law in rape cases (Reuters)

QUITO, ECUADOR – Gabriela doesn’t remember when she was raped, because she was passed out when it happened.

The 27-year-old Ecuadorian psychology student had been taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills on a regular basis. One night, when staying at a friend’s house, she took the usual combination that “makes me not feel a thing,” she said.

Her friend, a former lover who she thought she could trust, decided to take advantage.

It wasn’t until three months later when she found out she was pregnant that she realized what had happened.

“I denied it. I didn’t want to accept it, because it meant I would have to confront something horrible,” said Gabriela, who asked that her real name not be used.

When a doctor friend confirmed her pregnancy and asked what she wanted to do, she told him she wanted an abortion.

Abortions are illegal in Ecuador, except under two circumstances: if the life of the pregnant woman is at risk, or if the pregnancy is the result of the rape of a woman with mental disabilities.

Gabriela knew that if she sought an abortion she wouldn’t be able to press charges against her rapist, because the police would find out in their investigation and she could be charged and sent to prison. But she wanted a termination anyway.

“He already used and threw away my body, but I wasn’t going to give him the power to hurt the rest of my life,” Gabriela said of her abuser.

In January, Ecuador’s national assembly began to debate a bill on decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, incest and forced artificial insemination.

If passed, Ecuador will join other Latin American countries that already allow abortion for cases of rape, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Mexico.

Other countries in the region have banned it entirely, including Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

Ecuador’s current abortion laws have been in place since 1938. The last time the country debated whether or not to legalize abortion in cases of rape, in 2013, the assembly voted against it.

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