By Ana Isabel Martinez and Gerardo Arbaiza
SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Scores of people in El Salvador waved green flags and marched through the capital San Salvador en route to Congress to demand loosening of the country’s “strict” abortion laws, with similar protests planned across Latin American cities.
Holding up banners saying “it’s our right to decide” and “legal abortion, safe and free,” the mostly-women protesters met as part of the “International Safe Abortion Day” being marked around the globe.
The Salvadoran protesters sought to pressure the country’s legislators to ease one of the world’s strictest abortion laws, which prohibit termination of pregnancy in cases of rape and even if the mother’s life is at risk.
The proposals taken to the Salvadoran Congress have been named “Beatriz Reform,” in honor of a young woman who in 2013 openly called for an abortion to save her life as she suffered from a chronic disease, which took her life four years later.
“We are asking for minimum measures to add to the Penal Code to guarantee the life and integrity of women,” Morena Herrera, a prominent Salvadoran feminist, told journalists.
“It does not require constitutional reform. It can be done now and if it is true that there is independence of powers, the Legislative Assembly must respond,” she added.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele earlier this month ruled out any amendments to the abortion laws as part of controversial constitutional changes his government is planning.
Protests are also planned later in the day in Colombia and several cities in Mexico and Chile.
Sweeping changes across the predominantly Roman Catholic region have seen abortion law amended in some nations, including Argentina and parts of Mexico.
But several out of more than 20 Latin American nations still ban abortion outright, including El Salvador, which has sentenced some women to up to 40 years in prison.
Mexican authorities have put up protective fences on key buildings and emblematic monuments across several cities where women are expected to hold rallies. In the past, protesters have painted over historic monuments.
Protesters were also gathering in the Chilean capital Santiago, where legislators have been discussing plans for a bill that would expand the legal access for women to get abortions.
(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City and Gerardo Arbaiza in San Salvador; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Sandra Maler)