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In reversal, Guatemala shelving anti-abortion law

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In reversal, Guatemala shelving anti-abortion law

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala’s Congress on Tuesday postponed a bill that could impose up to 10 years in prison for women seeking abortions, an abrupt reversal that sparked days of protests, legal challenges and widespread rejection of the measure. occurs after, including a major adversary. Abortion group.

According to two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive policy matters, in back-channel conversations with the Guatemalan government, the US government expressed serious concerns about the enforcement of the law, which has ruled out gay marriage. was also banned.

The country’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, said he would veto the bill days after his allies pushed it through the legislature, a move that surprised analysts, human rights activists and Guatemalan officials.

On 9 March, a day after the bill was passed, Mr Giammattei attended a ceremony declaring Guatemala the “pro-life capital” of Latin America, where he said in a speech that he believed “In relation to life from the moment of conception.”

But by Thursday the president was distancing himself from the bill. In a brief video address, Mr Giammattei said the anti-abortion ceremony should not be linked to the legislature’s approval of the anti-abortion measure, which he said “suffers from technical shortcomings” and “violates the Constitution of the Republic.”

Officials and human rights activists say the reversal was triggered by an immediate reaction to the bill’s approval at home and abroad, which made it politically risky for Guatemala’s extremely unpopular president.

The bill, approved by the legislature last week on International Women’s Day, would have imposed the harshest penalties for abortion of any country in Latin America and likely blocked any movement on LGBTQ rights. It would have banned teaching students about sexual diversity or whether gay or lesbian sex is “normal,” and prohibited schools from discussing LGBTQ issues with children.

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“We expected the president to align himself with the law,” said Regina Tams, deputy director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. “He is a president who has done nothing to protect human rights in general, and very little for women and LGBT people.”

In a country where abortion is already illegal in every respect except when a woman’s life is at risk, the move to further restrict access to the procedure was quickly met with outrage by human rights groups.

In demonstrations that have been gathering momentum for days, women, LGBTQ activists and university students gathered in front of Congress to protest the bill. On Saturday, hundreds of protesters marched through the capital with a small group of protesters setting fire to the Guatemalan flag outside the National Palace, saying the bill “doesn’t represent me.”

Even the Family Matters Association, one of the largest anti-abortion organizations in Guatemala, came out against the measure, urging Mr Giammattei to consider the danger of ratifying a law that would “defend fundamental rights and guarantees”. could put you in danger.”

Polls show that Mr Giammattei has seen his approval rating decline since he took office in 2020. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a recent CID-Gallup poll said their performance was “poor or very poor” – the worst rating of the past 10 presidents in Guatemala, according to the analysis.

The Guatemalan leader has been implicated in two corruption counts, and his attorney general has escalated tensions with the Biden administration by targeting judges and former prosecutors.

“The president needed to do something to quell the demonstrations, lest they get out of control,” said Congresswoman Lucrecia Hernandez Mack, who voted against the law. “He was probably scared it was going to be louder because it caused a lot of outrage on social media and on the streets.”

A group of lawyers legally challenged the bill in the country’s Constitutional Court and opposition lawmakers sent formal objections to the Congress president. Lawmakers pointed to particular problems with part of the measure, which requires a physician to seek the approval of another doctor before performing an abortion to save a mother’s life.

Guatemala has about one doctor per 1,000 people, members of Congress said, which would make it extremely difficult for women at risk of maternal death to obtain abortions under the law.

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