Things That Matter

Honduras Moves To Enshrine Bans On Abortion And Marriage Equality In The Constitution

Honduras already has one of the world’s strictest bans on abortion. It’s completely banned in all circumstances, including even in cases of rape and incest, and when the person’s life and the health are in danger. The country also has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, including recognizing those that were performed abroad.

So, why is the country moving to further limit access to abortion and marriage equality?

The Honduran Congress has voted to make it impossible to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage.

In the first round of voting, the country’s congress had voted to move forward on complete and total constitutional bans against abortion and marriage equality. But lawmakers are taking it a step further, by increasing the votes needed to undo their constitutional amendments in the future.

One lawmaker referred to the legislation as a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law.

However, the amendments require a second reading/vote and activists across the country (and world) are mobilizing to help stop these amendments from being voted in. But they face an uphill battle, as the legislation has overwhelming support within Congress and from the country’s staunchly conservative president.

Honduras already has among the world’s strictest bans on abortion.

Abortion in Honduras is already illegal in all circumstances. The country’s criminal code imposes prison sentences of up to six years on people who undergo abortions and medical professionals who provide them. The government also bans emergency contraception, or “the morning after pill,” which can prevent pregnancy after rape, unprotected sex, or contraceptive failure.

“Honduras’ draconian legislation already bans abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, when the person’s life and the health are in danger, and when the fetus will not survive outside the womb,” said Ximena Casas, Americas women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This decree will make it virtually impossible to carry out the recommendations from multiple international human rights bodies to end this violation of reproductive rights.”

Honduras also already has a strict ban on same-sex marriage.

The 2005 constitutional amendment prohibits recognizing marriage between people of the same sex, including same-sex marriages contracted in other countries. Honduras also bans adoption by same-sex couples.

“By seeking to permanently and comprehensively block any possibility of accessing marriage for same-sex couples, the Honduran Congress is entrenching state-sponsored homophobia,” said Cristian González Cabrera, Americas lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“In a country where LGBT people already experience high levels of violence and discrimination, this effort to amend the constitution is sending the message that these people may be further stigmatized.”

Congress is also making it harder for future lawmakers to undo their constitutional amendments.

Not only was it not enough to double down on these draconian bans on abortion and marriage equality, lawmakers are moving to increase the threshold of votes to undo their bans.

Constitutional changes have until now been permitted with a two-thirds majority, but the new legislation raises that bar to three-quarters within the 128-member body. The measure still needs to be ratified by a second vote. However, support was clear on Thursday: with 88 legislators voting in favor, 28 opposed and seven abstentions.

Mario Pérez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, formally proposed the change last week, calling it a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law.

Many see the constitutional amendment as a response to Argentina’s move to legalize abortion last month.

It was just last month that Argentina voted in favor of legalizing access to abortion. The South American nation became the largest Latin American country to allow abortion after its senate approved the historic law change by 38 votes in favor to 29 against, with one abstention.

For years, abortion has also been illegal in Argentina. The procedure was illegal except in cases where the mother or baby’s lives were in danger. In 2019, the country passed a law that also included rape victims as exceptions. 

The push towards various kinds of gender rights–including abortion rights–has been central to President Alberto Fernández’s administration. The center-left politician campaigned on a platform that emphasized the rights of women, gay, and trans communities since he was elected in 2019. Even throughout the devastation of the pandemic, Fernández has insisted on keeping his promises towards marginalized communities.

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