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A positive decision would mean that for the first time in 41 years, Bolivian women meeting certain conditions for an abortion would be free from criminal sanctions.President Evo Morales's election in 2006 ushered in an unprecedented era of indigenous pride and rights for Bolivia.Organizations and legal entities desiring to use material from the Media Library may request permission from our Permissions page.
It is under these penal codes that Helena was charged and imprisoned for an illegal abortion.
Given the legal disconnect between the new constitution and the old penal codes, Deputy Patricia Mancilla, a recently elected indigenous member of the country's congress, presented a legal challenge questioning the constitutionality of several articles related to women's issues.
From 2010-2011 the rate of women reporting to Percy Boland Hospital for complications from unsafe abortions rose from 4,174 to 4,709.
According to 2011 statistics from the Bolivian Ministry of Health, an estimated 67,000 abortions -- mostly illegal and unsafe -- were performed in the country. When Helena arrived at the Percy Boland Maternity Hospital last January, she was raising one child on her own. Helena worked two jobs, one at a local pastry shop, located in front of the Palace of Justice, a second as a waitress, which netted her $130 a month.
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This right can be revoked at any time and for any reason.The court's ruling on abortion, and the eleven other articles presented by Mancilla, could have an immediate effect on women's access to health services.This is particularly true in the case of abortion if the court eliminates the need to request judicial authorization for the procedure, perhaps the biggest barrier to accessing legal abortions in the country. She attends congressional meetings wearing the traditional dress of her community: a long skirt blooming over multicolored layers of petticoats and a small grey bowler hat delicately balanced on two long plaits trailing down her back.This included Article 263, which criminalizes abortion.Another article highlighted reduces criminal penalties by half if a man claims his crime was committed to preserve a woman's honor.With the new constitution we are now able to modify laws, codes, and policies and improve our society for the wellbeing of Bolivian women." Percy Boland Hospital, where Helena was arrested, is located in the lowland city of Santa Cruz, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.Named after a firebrand second-generation Irish immigrant, Percy Boland is the lead teaching hospital in the country, with 154 beds and an average of 1,000 births per month.And yet another sanctions a man who abandons a pregnant woman outside of marriage, but not a man who abandons his wife and children.In one of the more antediluvian articles, a rapist can avoid criminal sanctions if he marries his victim.Sexual violence is endemic in Bolivia; after Haiti it has the highest rates of sexual violence in Latin America.According to UN Women, seven out of 10 women in Bolivia are victims of sexual violence.