Constitutional Tribunal of Bolivia upholds constitutionality of country’s pro-life laws
What’s at Stake
- The right to life from the moment of conception until natural death
- No ‘right to abortion’ in international law
Bolivia has robust protections in place for the protection of human life from the moment of conception. The country’s Criminal Code has thirteen articles that stipulate abortion as a crime. But these articles came under threat from a member of congress in March 2013.
Congresswoman Patricia Mancilla challenged the constitutionality of the thirteen articles before the Constitutional Tribunal of Bolivia. Mancilla’s challenge, however, rested on international guidelines that are non-binding. She based her arguments on the Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), and recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The Constitutional Tribunal opened the discussion on the decriminalization of abortion and referred the case to local and international NGOs, in a process that took over 10 months. ADF International filed a legal brief in August 2013 explaining the constitutionality of the thirteen articles of the Criminal Code, because no ‘right to abortion’ exists in international law. It also explained the mandate of the ICPD and CEDAW and the non-binding nature of their recommendations.
In February 2014, the Constitutional Tribunal of Bolivia upheld the country’s pro-life laws by affirming the constitutionality of abortion as a crime in the country’s Criminal Code. In its ruling, the tribunal said it ‘considers that life and everything that can potentially generate it is protected under our Fundamental Law… an abortion in any stage of the embryo’s development is not constitutionally admissible and the creation of policy that constitutionally protects the life of the embryo is enough for the Legislative Organ to use all kinds of public policy needed for its protection, which falls into criminal law in a mandatory way in the most advanced stages of the embryo…’
And in a further positive development, the decision not only protected life from conception; it also contributed to the formation of the New Girls, Boys and Adolescents Code of July 2014. This code recognizes that every person from the moment of conception until eighteen years old is protected under law.
Our Role in the Case
ADF International filed a legal brief explaining the constitutionality of the thirteen articles of the Criminal Code, because no ‘right to abortion’ exists in international law, or in the mandate of the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.