By: Valerie Huber
This article originally appeared in the National Review
What we’re seeing in Ecuador is that the ‘international right’ to abortion is colonialism by another name.
Ecuador’s president recently vetoed a bill that ostensibly created a narrow abortion exception for rape but in fact posed a broad and grievous threat to Ecuadorian women’s basic rights and safety.
Repeatedly invoking protection of the victims’ privacy, the bill set up obstacles to the investigation and prosecution of the rapist — one reason for the president’s veto. As the bill now stands, it would likely contribute to an increase in repeat rapes — and Ecuador’s congress has just a few days to decide whether to agree with the president’s veto or to override the veto and make the original bill the law of Ecuador.
The discussion of the bill is complex, of course. Putting policies in place that protect the health and well-being of women — especially those who are victims of rape — should always be a political priority. But the language of the original bill, prompting 61 amendments from President Guillermo Lasso, was about much more than rape or rape victims.
The bill sets the stage for a wholesale upending of the country’s laws, asserting that abortion is a fundamental human right and removing conscience rights for individuals and institutions that do not want to participate in abortion.
Lasso’s veto sparked global backlash, of course. Nearly any limitation or regulation on abortion is dismissed out of hand by progressives. But a lot of nations view the protection of life as core to their values and don’t want liberalized abortion policies.
Allowing nations to protect women’s rights and safety without interference from pro-abortion lobbyists or politicians is an important part of respecting sovereignty. That’s why this bill isn’t just about keeping women safe: It’s also a fight for the ability to legislate without international coercion.
The Geneva Consensus Declaration, signed in 2020 by dozens of countries in a wholehearted endorsement of real health gains for women of all ages, also rejected a so-called international right to abortion. In doing so, the signees repudiated notions of global pro-abortion consensus.
The strength and intent of this rebuke has important implications for global politics. After all, progressives say that it’s bad to make assumptions about other cultures — or anyone, for that matter — based on our own values. We’re told that exporting our moral commitments is the thinking of a “colonizer.” Progressives scold anyone and everyone for their real or alleged infringements on the freedom of other people.
But these rules evidently don’t apply to them. Instead, these same progressives promote abortion globally by calling it a “human” right. They’re also willing to use economic pressure and “name and shame” tactics to get their way. The Biden administration and progressive allied nations are applying pressure on countries that fail to conform with their preferred legal regime on abortion, and this hostile campaign has been going on for a long time.
Members of Congress are also guilty of this external interference in the internal abortion decisions of other countries. While President Lasso was considering the bill, Democratic California representative Norma Torres and 19 fellow House Members sent a letter urging him to sign the bill.
They did this despite the fact that Congress has been clear that the U.S. government shouldn’t be in the business of advocating abortion abroad, and recent polling confirms that Americans of all stripes — Republican, Democrat, pro-choice, and pro-life — agree that America should not be exporting abortion abroad. Most American citizens don’t want us ideologically colonizing other nations in this way.
The Ecuadorian constitution, in particular, explicitly protects the right to life. Article 45 says that the government “shall recognize and guarantee life, including care and protection from the time of conception.” The rest of the world has no business interfering with a core concept in the country’s constitution that protects all life. In an era when life is increasingly disposable, the rest of the world could learn something important from a country that so values life that it has enshrined its protection within their constitution.
There is no international right to abortion. Asserting that there is doesn’t make it so. Governments are established for many reasons — some better and some worse — but generally they are founded on the supposition of sovereignty and national integrity. And the right to protect life, the right to protect the future of citizens, is an essential component of real national sovereignty. We should reject any external political framework that seeks to violate the integrity and sovereignty of other nations as they protect the life of every person, no matter how young or no matter how old. Ecuador, like all other sovereign nations, deserves this same deference without pressure from the White House or Congress.
What’s more, Ecuador’s women deserve equal protection under the law. They deserve protection from rape. They deserve protection from death in utero. They deserve protection from political agendas that would use their lives and bodies as pawns in globalized ideological battles.
Asserting and exporting a political contingency such as abortion as if it were a universal, essential, and inalienable right is colonization by another name.