Honduras blocks the pro-abortion green wave
Life | Congressmen in Honduras act swiftly to protect the country’s pro-life constitution against international pressure
by Leah Hickman
Posted 2/08/21, 01:34 pm
Early in the morning on Dec. 30, green-clad Argentines celebrated the country’s legalization of abortion as they listened to the results of the vote in the square outside of the Senate building in Buenos Aires. Pro-abortion advocates trumpeted the development. “The legalization of abortion in Argentina will have an effect across the whole region,” said Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Argentina’s minister of women, gender, and diversity. “We will paint Latin America green.”
But some countries are resisting. On Jan. 11, pro-life congressmen contacted the Honduran Pro-Life Committee and told the team about their plan to pass a constitutional amendment that would prevent lawmakers from legalizing abortion in the country. The congressmen sent the proposal to the committee. “When we read it, we were like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is more than perfect,’” said former Honduran congresswoman Martha Lorena de Casco, who helped start the organization in 1983. That day, the Pro-Life Committee began making calls to pro-lifers in the country asking for their support for the proposed amendment.
Ten days later, the National Congress of Honduras held its first vote on the amendment. On Jan. 28, lawmakers ratified it in a second vote. Conservative Honduras’ constitutional change was a swift reaction to the so-called green wave in Latin America. Pro-lifers in the country hope that other poor nations will follow Honduras’ example to guard against international pro-abortion pressures, especially now that the United States has rejoined the effort to promote abortion globally.
“I was surprised by just the amount of bipartisan support for this legislation,” said Ligia Castaldi, a native Honduran and law professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Florida. The second vote garnered the support of 90 congressmen, an overwhelming majority in the 128-member Congress. Most of the lawmakers who voted against the measure were in the radical left party. But even some members of that party supported it. “There wasn’t one pro-abortion party,” Castaldi said.
Left-leaning members of the Congress were undaunted by Honduras’ upcoming election. “I began to receive calls from medical industries asking me to vote against [the measure], companies that I did not even know,” said Luis Redondo, a member of the country’s center-left party, PINU. “That is why today I say that I always go to vote in favor of life, even if that means that I will not be elected deputy again, but I will not contradict my principles.”
The strong majority of support means the amendment has staying power, even after the next election. Overturning the constitutional amendment would require support from a three-fourths majority. Although reversal isn’t impossible, it requires a higher threshold than the one the Congress had to meet to pass it.
The current law in Honduras penalizes both abortionists and women who have abortions for any reason in order to discourage the practice in the country. Abortionists have been criminally prosecuted and given professional sanctions for performing the procedure. But Castaldi said women convicted of obtaining abortions rarely if ever face jail time. The penalties are so low that courts can easily commute them to non-jail sentences, like community service. “Pro-abortion groups have not found a single woman who is in jail for abortion, and I think if there were, they would have found her,” Castaldi said.
The amendment also fortifies an existing section of the Honduran constitution, which recognizes the unborn child’s right to life. A handful of other Latin American countries have similar language in their constitutions, but the amendment sets Honduras apart from the rest by specifically preventing the legalization of abortion. Castaldi doesn’t know of any other countries that have similar efforts in the works, but Casco said lawyers and congressmen from neighboring countries have expressed support for and even interest in the measure. “Poor countries should start having this,” she said. “This might be a way to really … protect life from every government.”
Casco hasn’t seen any open opposition to the amendment from the United States or groups like the European Union. She said even if they were to react, “it’s too late.” But she does anticipate the country could face some international pressures to reverse its position moving forward.
She pointed to U.S. President Joe Biden, who has placed pro-abortion staff in key international positions. He also revoked the Mexico City Policy that had prevented U.S. dollars from funding international organizations that provide abortions. Casco said she hopes the United States “will respect our sovereignty” on the abortion issue: “I foresee that probably the USAID, which is very strong in Honduras … will start pushing [abortion] and talking to politicians.”
International aid groups can point to pro-life laws as reasons to withhold funding by categorizing them as hate speech or out of sync with human rights standards.
“They cannot bend your arm and impose it by force—nobody can do that,” Casco said. “But they can start making it difficult.”
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