(above) Protesters in favor of abortion in Lima. The sign reads, "They are trampling on women's rights." (Photo : Twitter/AxSolidaridad)

Current World Headlines: Peru Establishes Abortion Guidelines After 90 Years, Catholic Church Leaders Disapprove

By Rodrigo Ugarte (staff@latinpost.com)
Peru's record on women's rights has not been a good one; however, the latest news from Lima has made life for women in the South American country slightly better.

Ninety years ago Peru's government decided a woman in risk of losing her life or who faced "serious or permanent damage" could have an abortion; however, the government did not provide any guidelines as to when and who can provide the abortions. Fearing jail time, doctors rarely conducted abortions, and women suffered accordingly.

On Saturday the Peruvian government finally rectified this error after being asked to do so by the United Nations.  

The Ministry of Health set the new standards for abortions, granting doctors the ability to do abortions without fear of jail time and released new guidelines codifying the process, allowing for abortions up to 22 weeks into the pregnancy. Though abortions remain restricted to the abovementioned circumstances, now women in said situations can opt to abort legally without fear or danger.

According to Human Rights Watch, the United Nations condemned Peru in 2009 for violating the rights of a girl who was raped, found herself to be pregnant and then attempted suicide by jumping from a building. Following her attempt, she faced permanent disability unless doctors performed emergency surgery, but they could not operate because of her pregnancy. Her mother wanted her to have an abortion, but doctors refused out of fear of prison time. Three months later, the girl miscarried and had the surgery but too late to prevent her paralysis.

Though the HRW has lauded Peru's actions, it pointed out that the new guidelines do not cover all eventualities, like a case when a woman or girl risks permanent self-injury or suicide because of the mental anguish caused by her pregnancy. In many cases, this refers to rape since rape is not covered by the abortion guidelines.

However, the issue of abortion remains a contentious one in Peru. Soon after the publishing of the guidelines, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani denounced the government's actions.

"We are on the side of the defense of life, on the side of our Church," he said, according to Peru21, adding that the Health Minister will be judged by God.

The leader of the centre-right People's Christian Party, Lourdes Nano Flores, agreed with the cardinal. Yet, others approved of the position, among them first lady Nadine Heredia as well as the previous first lady, Pilar Nores.

However, despite support from notable figures like the first lady, many in Peru continue to disapprove of the new rules and abortion in general. Peru21 reported that a survey conducted by CPI found 79 percent of Peruvians in favor of the Catholic Church publicly opinionating on abortion. The same study also found 60 percent of Lima citizens agree with the archbishop of Lima's "pastoral duty" in the nation. Regardless, many human rights and women's groups see the new rules as progress for a country that moves extraordinarily slow on women's issues.