Peruvian women who become pregnant due to rape are now obliged to keep the unwanted pregnancy because Peru's congress has extinguished a bill that legalized abortion in such cases.
"It has been decided to shelve this bill, which was proposed by civil society groups that aimed to decriminalize abortion, based on criteria proposed by the congress committee that the basis of the right to life is from the moment of conception," said Juan Carlos Eguren, a conservative congressman, according to The Guardian.
Congressman Julio Rosas said the consensus on the issue, which has divided Peruvians, was to "safeguard the health of a mother and the greater interests of the unborn child."
The voting process happened on Tuesday, paving the way to keep Peru's law intact when it comes to abortion, which allows the process only if a woman's life and health is at peril.
Pro- and anti-abortion groups held demonstrations in Lima outside the congress building for the passage or rejection of the bill. Activists supporting the bill had the message "Let me decide" painted on their waists as they stood with nothing covering their breasts.
In the past year, in support of the bill, Peruvian women's rights groups accumulated more than 64,000 signatures so that the bill could be debated by lawmakers.
Reuters reported that a recent opinion poll published by El Comercio newspaper claimed that Peruvians are divided on this abortion issue. Fifty-two percent of the people in Lima are in favor of abortion—but only for rape cases.
Peruvian rights groups claim that a law banning public health services from giving away emergency contraception makes the plight of pregnant rape victims more difficult, but those who can afford it have it readily available from private healthcare providers.
Reports noted that women who have difficulty obtaining abortions legally often resort to backstreet abortions, which puts their lives at risk.
According to the World Health Organization, in 2008, "the highest [regional] unsafe abortion rate (31) is in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region."