35,000 Bolivian Christians March Against Abortion Laws

Thousands of evangelicals and Catholics took to the streets of Cochabamba, Bolivia earlier this week in solidarity against the possible decriminalization of abortion, making the march the largest pro-life demonstration ever in the South American nation.

The Christian community marched against the recent appeals made by the consitutional court to the country's abortion laws, which if ratified could exempt Bolivian women, who meet specific criterion for an abortion, from criminal sanctions.

"Abortion is the cruelest crime of human beings, that's what makes it a crime, because it's the death of someone helpless," said Ruth Montaño,a representative of Pro Familia Committee of the Evangelical Church in Bolivia, reports news outlet  La Razon.

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In Bolivia, abortion is a crime except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the expectant mother is at risk and can only be performed with the permission of a judge.

According to demonstration organizers, the march also aimed to create awareness of pro-choice laws in other countries that are "set in place to control the population," with the hopes that Bolivia can remain conservative and not follow in the same steps.

In 2011, an estimated 67,000 abortions performed illegally and unsafely took place in Bolivia according to the Bolivian Ministry of Health. These pregnancies were terminated because of rape in most cases, being that sexual violence is epidemic in Bolivia.

Currently, the country has the second highest sexual violence rate in Latin America after Haiti and according to Marie Stopes International, a non-profit organization specialized in sexual and reproductive healthcare, seven out of 10 Bolivian women are victims of sexual violence with the majority of the crimes perpetrated by a male family member.

The case of a 12-year-old girl from Cochabamba is the prime example of that statistic. In 2002, a judge granted her the right to terminate her pregnancy after she was raped by her stepfather, causing an outpour of controversy by those who began to question the exceptions in abortion laws.

Miguel Manzanera, a judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Cochabamba, said the Catholic church aims to help these victims of rape to "not be tempted to think that abortion will solve the problem," noting that they have options and support within resource groups that can provide psychological and moral support.

The march in Cochabamba was one of many throughout several cities that took place in the last few days where thousands more gathered to march in favor of pro-life laws. Last week, demonstrations were held in Laz Paz, Santa Cruz and other towns. In addition, another march took place in the city of Oruro on Wednesday where the majority of advocates were Catholic.

"We are asking to respect life beginning at conception," Christopher Bialasik, a Bishop of the Diocese of Oruro, said, reports "This march is so that the groups that are promoting the culture of death can change their attitude, so we can all protect the life of every human being in Bolivia."

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