Guatemalan president says he will veto bill increasing penalties for abortion


UPDATE, 3/21/22: Reports indicate that the bill that would have increased penalties for abortion in Guatemala has been shelved after the country’s president requested it, stating his belief that violated both the country’s constitution and international conventions.

3/13/22: Guatemala is a strongly pro-life country that has managed to fight off attempts to legalize abortion. Yet a recent bill that would make abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison is facing immense controversy — including from Guatemala’s own president.

Abortion is already illegal in Guatemala, except in situations where a mother’s life is in danger (read more here about why abortion is never truly medically necessary). But under the new bill, women who undergo abortions could end up in prison. Doctors who commit abortions, meanwhile, have an even more severe penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

The bill was approved by the Guatemalan Congress on Tuesday, potentially due to the number of other Latin and South American countries that have recently caved to pressure and legalized abortion. “I voted for it because of what has happened in other countries,” Armando Castillo said, according to the New York Times. “The point of this is to set a trend, so that can never happen here.”

READ: Pro-lifers mobilizing to oppose abortion across Latin America

The concept of penalizing mothers for abortions is heavily debated and controversial in the pro-life movement; the vast majority of pro-lifers support penalties against the abortionists committing the procedures.

Originally, it was reported that the bill had the support of President Alejandro Giammattei. Giammattei declared Guatemala to be the “Ibero-American Capital for Life,” and held a “Life and Family Day” at the National Palace, where he said, “This event is an invitation to unite as Guatemalans to protect life from conception until natural death.”

Yet Thursday, Giammattei said the bill violated international conventions and the Guatemalan constitution, and told lawmakers to either amend the bill or face his veto. “I have spoken with the president of the legislative body to ask that Congress shelve this law, and, if it is not, I have decided that if this law reaches my office it will be vetoed,” he said in a video broadcast.

Giammettei has recently made headlines for his pro-life advocacy. He was not invited to the Biden-Harris administration’s Summit for Democracy, and it was suggested by some that the snub was due to the country’s pro-life values. Instead, Giammattei gave a speech in Washington, D.C., affirming that Guatemala will remain pro-life, saying, “Being pro-life is in our DNA as Guatemalans!”

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