Honduras Right-to-Life Amendment

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by Martin Barillas  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 5, 2021   

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (ChurchMilitant.com) - Honduras is facing opposition from powerful enemies who are disgruntled over the country's recent constitutional reform aimed at shielding preborn babies from infanticide. 

On Facebook, for example, Germany's embassy to Honduras issued a statement expressing the country's opposition to the recent pro-life reform of the Central American republic's constitution: "Germany as well as the European Union, Spain and France are concerned about the constitutional reform to prohibit abortion, reminding the government of Honduras of international standards and recommendations it has been given regarding women's rights." 

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Juan Orlando Hernández

On Jan. 28, legislators in Honduras ratified an amendment to Article 67 of the nation's constitution to specifically prohibit the "interruption of life" of unborn children. The amendment states the unborn child is a life that "must be respected from the moment of conception." 

Unlike most of the rest of the world, Honduras already had laws protecting unborn human life and imposing stiff penalties on abortion providers. Abortion was already prohibited in cases of rape or incest, fetal abnormalities and where there is danger posed to mothers, even before the constitutional reform. In addition, so-called "morning-after" or "emergency" contraception is prohibited. In 2012, the nation's Supreme Court upheld protections for unborn children. 

Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández of the ruling National Party promoted the reform, which is known as "Shield Against Abortion in Honduras." Elected in 2017, Hernández faces reelection in November. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, Honduras is one of six countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to prohibit abortion. The other members of this select group include the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Suriname. Nevertheless, all these countries are under pressure from foreign governments and local advocacy groups to eliminate laws protecting unborn human life. 

Pro-abortion organizations, feminists and major international donors were displeased by the development.

An ample majority of legislators in the nation's unicameral lawmaking body ratified constitutional reforms that not only forbid abortion but that also forbid the recognition of same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage. In place since 1982, Article 67 of the Constitution of Honduras had already defined that the "unborn will be considered as born for all rights accorded within the limits established by law." With the reform, the Constitution states that "it is considered forbidden and illegal the practice of the interruption of life of the unborn in any form, either by the mother or by a third party."  

The Constitution, which already recognized marriage as the union of a man and a woman, may now "only be reformed by a three-quarters majority of the members of the National Congress," thus giving additional protection to traditional marriage. This would mean 96 out of the 128 members of the legislature (rather than the two-thirds of legislators formerly required) would be needed for any eventual constitutional reform, including a redefinition of marriage. 

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Pro-abortion organizations, feminists and major international donors were displeased by the development. The office of the United Nations in Honduras, for example, immediately sent out a press release to express "its concerns for the reform's approval incorporating the absolute prohibition of abortion and of marriage equality." Revealing the institution's focus on eugenics, the statement quoted the office of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, which stated: "The existence of very restrictive laws that prohibit abortions even in cases of incest, rape, fetal deficiency or when life is at risk or the health of the mother, violate the right of women not to be subjected to torture or ill-treatment." 

The United Nations called on the Honduran Congress to adhere to an opinion issued in 2017 by the Inter-American Human Rights Court that claimed that the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Honduras [along with the United States] is a signatory, binds the country to permit same-sex "marriages." On Jan. 21, the U.N. office in Honduras tweeted that it lamented "the constitutional reform for the absolute prohibition of abortion and recalls that it contravenes international obligations and specific recommendations to the State of Honduras on the rights of women." 

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Samantha Power

The Catholic bishops of Honduras, the Catholic University of Honduras, as well as various Evangelical communities and civic organizations expressed support for the reform. "It's impossible to understand how abortion is viewed in Honduras without considering the outsized role religion plays," noted a 2019 report by the left-wing Human Rights Watch. Confirming the strong traditional values of Honduras, the report added, "Conservative Christian churches, both Catholic and evangelical Protestant, are extremely influential, and the vast majority of Hondurans belong to one or the other." 

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the world; it's a place where violent crime associated with drug trafficking is rampant. Violence against women is also a serious problem, prompting the United Nations, the European Union and feminist groups to demand abortion and contraception as countermeasures

Endemic unemployment and devastating hurricanes in 2020 are placing pressure on the poor to migrate north to Mexico and, eventually, to the United States. Honduras currently has a population of about 10 million. The European Union promised €225 million in aid for 2014–2020, while the United States pledged more than $71 million for fiscal year 2019, which includes military and disaster assistance.  

The foreign policy of the United States has long played a significant role in Honduras. In the early 20th century, for example, the United States sent the Marines to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company and to restore order in the fractious republic. In the 1950s, Honduras served as a staging area for the overthrow of the government of Guatemala by the United States. During the Obama administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut at least $11 million in aid to Honduras over her disagreement with the impeachment and ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. The United Nations and European Union also criticized Zelaya's ouster. 

The Catholic bishops of Honduras, the Catholic University of Honduras, as well as various Evangelical communities and civic organizations expressed support for the reform.

Planned Parenthood recently lauded Samantha Power, President Biden's pro-abortion pick to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees U.S. contributions towards contraception and abortion outside of the country. During the Obama administration, Power served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as Obama's national security advisor, where she defended the LGBTQ agenda. A Catholic born in Ireland, Power was a co-chairman of Biden's campaign outreach to Catholics. In a tweet, Planned Parenthood lauded Power as "a steadfast voice for human rights," who has the "experience and the opportunity to advance sexual and reproductive healths [sic] and rights for people around the world as USAID administrator."  

While Catholic bishops and pro-lifers have questioned how United States' interests are advanced through the provision of abortion and same-sex "marriage," President Biden announced last week the rescission of the Mexico City Policy, which forbids U.S. funding of foreign non-governmental agencies (such as those affiliated with the International Planned Parenthood Federation) that promote and/or perform abortions abroad. 

Despite pressure from the European Union, United Nations and the United States, pro-life groups in Latin America are organizing rallies and pressuring governments throughout the hemisphere to roll back so-called abortion rights. When Argentina recently reformed its penal code to allow abortion, Paraguay's Parliament conducted a moment of silent protest, while Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonarosaid that under his administration, abortion will not be allowed.  Marcela Errecalde, an Argentine activist in the continent-wide pro-life movement (that has adopted Argentina's sky blue as its official color), opined in an interview with Church Militant that while Honduras is in a "ticklish situation" in bilateral relations with the United States, pro-lifers there remain defiant.

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