Stopping "Therapeutic Abortion": The Case of Peru

Steven Mosher
by Carlos Polo
Director of PRI's Latin American Initiative
Reproduced with Permission

Abortion is a crime in Peru, as in all Latin American countries except Cuba and Puerto Rico. Unborn babies are protected from the moment of conception by the constitutions of all these countries, as well as the American Convention of Human Rights, also known as the Pact of San Jose. Pro-abortion legislation has repeatedly failed to pass the region's congresses. The people of Latin America, no less than their elected representatives, are overwhelmingly pro-life. Faced with this level of popular opposition, the pro-abortion movement has long sought a backdoor way to "legalize" abortion.

One of their favorite tactics has been to claim that any abortion that goes unpunished is a "legal" abortion. Since the law in some Latin American countries does not always impose a penalty for abortion, this claim has succeeded in confusing the issue to some degree.

Using this pretext, they have begun to pressure ministries of health to approve "protocols of emergency gynecological attention." These are written so as to medically authorize the performance of a "therapeutic abortion" in very limited, restricted circumstances where the mother's health is said to be in grave danger. Once such a "protocol" is in place, the abortion provision is gradually widened in practice. Soon, using the World Health Organization's definition of "health," all abortions become "therapeutic" abortions. The constitutional prohibitions on abortion are rendered impotent.

Dr. Carlos Vallejos Sologuren, Minister of Health, recently received permission to write a "protocol" that would legalize abortion in Peru.

We see this new and dangerous tactic being used in my own country of Peru. Several months ago the Minister of Health, Dr. Carlos Vallejos Sologuren, who claims to be pro-life, quietly received permission from the government to form a "Technical Commission" to write just such a "protocol."

This past week on June 18th abortion supporters gathered at an event in the Peruvian Congress organized by Congressman Robles to "discuss the issue" of therapeutic abortion. There was little actual discussion, however, since all of the speakers invited to the event were pro-abortion. They included "experts" like Susana Chavez, member of Flora Tristan, representatives from the "Observatory of Sexual and Reproductive Rights" and PROMSEX. All of these organizations relentlessly promote abortion on demand.

Then there was Minister Vallejos, who gave the opening address. What was he doing there?

True practitioners of medicine do not seek to solve difficult pregnancies by performing clandestine abortions, but by trying to save both the mother and her baby.

Abortion is not a popular issue in Peru. Minister Vallejos has said many times he is against abortion, but his actions speak louder than words. Among other things, he claims that the Morning After Pill is not abortifacient, when it clearly is. He is setting up the Technical Commission, and openly supports its work. He speaks of being worried about women's lives, but soon enough, we suspect, will declare that some abortions are "therapeutic." Soon enough, if the path taken by politicians in other countries is any guide, he will abandon even the pretense of a pro-life stance.

How can the forthcoming "protocol" be opposed, in Peru and other countries? Peruvian Criminal Law says that an abortion has no penalty only "when it is the only way to save the mother's life or to avoid a grave and permanent damage". It does not say that abortion is not a crime in these cases. It clearly is.

Either an act is a crime or it is not. There is no middle ground. And abortion is a crime in Peru. This aside, there is no justification whatsoever under Peruvian law for the government offering abortion services, as it now apparently intends to do.

Pro-lifers also need to point out that such a "protocol" is completely unnecessary. True practitioners of medicine do not seek to solve difficult pregnancies by performing clandestine abortions, but by trying to save both the mother and her baby. Instead of an abortion protocol, these doctors need the resources to provide quality medical care in the event of high-risk pregnancies.