Peru’s government has enacted regulations that allow therapeutic abortions, sparking criticism and approval.
Therapeutic abortions have been legal, in fact, since 1924 in ‘extreme situations’ but no government since then had drawn up the regulations to allow the practice.
The regulations now approved permit abortions in certain circumstances, specifically when a pregnancy is a threat to the health and life of a woman.
The government has outlined three requirements that must be met for a legal abortion, Health Minister Midori de Habich said.
The first is if the mother’s health and life are at risk. The second is that the woman should not be more than 22 weeks into her pregnancy. And the third is that a woman must provide written and signed consent to the abortion, daily La Republica reported.
Leading conservatives echo Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, also Archbishop of Lima, in coming out strongly against the decree and the government’s approval of these regulations for abortions under special circumstances. Cipriani said on his Saturday morning radio program that President Humala and first lady Nadine Heredia had broken their promise to him, that they would not allow the abortion regulations to pushed through.
The Technical Guideline for Therapeutic Abortions “is nothing but a guide on how to kill a child,” Cipriani said, blaming the ministers of Health, Justice, and Women of letting babies be killed.
Former Health minister Luis Solari said the government had acted under pressure from the United Nations, adding that he had witnessed the pressure since 2006 when he was minister. Only four or five countries in Latin America have an abortion protocol, Solari said, because “Everyone knows that these are situations that have been practically overcome by science and medicine.”
But Prime Minister Rene Cornejo has brushed aside the critics, saying that the decree is necessary in order to save the life of women in extreme situations.
“It is definitely not the interest or the intention of the government to do what [Cipriani] is indicating,” Cornejo said.
Nadine Heredia, minister of Health Midori de Habich, and the minister of Women and Vulnerable Communities, Carmen Omonte, have praised the approval of the regulations, and have been criticized by some of the opposition for doing so. However, former President Alan Garcia’s wife, Pilar Nores, has also made her approval public, although she said she was disappointed that rape was not included as a cause for abortion.
In 2005, national and World Health Organization statistics showed that 410,000 clandestine or illegal abortions were known to have been performed in Peru, most of them reported through post-operative hospital treatment of infections and hemorrhages. In 2013, national health statistics reported that 30% of deaths of teenage mothers were due to clandestine abortions.
Although family planning and different contraceptive options have lowered the number, illegal abortions are still numerous, and in cities such as Lima it is common to see leaflets pasted to lamposts in poorer areas advertising abortion services.
Although the regulations are only now in place, some 12 hospitals nationwide have been quietly practicing therapeutic abortions for many years, following internal guidelines.