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Justa Libertad: A Movement to Decriminalize Abortion in Ecuador

The Green Wave Continues to Make Strides in Latin America

Women from different organizations that are part of the Justa Libertad movement raise green scarves outside the Constitutional Court of Ecuador in Quito, March 19, 2024. © 2024 Karen Toro

Justa Libertad, an Ecuadorian coalition of eight civil society organizations, recently filed a lawsuit before the Constitutional Court of Ecuador seeking to decriminalize abortion. This crucial initiative seeks to ensure that women, girls, and other pregnant people can access safe abortion care. It follows similar coalitions that achieved progress in other Latin American countries like Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina.

Abortion is currently penalized in Ecuador with up to three years in prison, with exceptions for cases in which the pregnancy represents a risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman or, after a 2021 Constitutional Court ruling, when the pregnancy is the result of sexual violence. Even for cases that fit these narrow exceptions, accessing abortion care remains challenging due to stigma among health personnel and other institutions that hold the belief that once pregnant, women and girls are obligated to become mothers.

Justa Libertad embodies the struggle for social justice and women’s rights in Ecuador. The denial of abortion services can violate a number of human rights, including the rights to nondiscrimination and equality; life; health; information; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; privacy and bodily autonomy and integrity; and freedom of conscience and religion. Women, girls, and other pregnant people have the right to make decisions about their own body and their future. 

Regulating abortion via criminal law perpetuates its stigma and disproportionately affects women and girls living in conditions of poverty, including Indigenous and Afro-descendant people.

Amid a movement across Latin America to achieve reproductive justice, decriminalizing abortion is an urgent matter. Ecuador should join other countries in taking this step. 

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