Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

  QUITO, Equador, August 29, 2007 ( the process of rewriting their constitution, Ecuadorans have become embroiled in a contentious debate over the rights of the unborn, and the possibility of an endorsement of same-sex unions is also being discussed.

  The constitutional rewrite is currently in its initial phases.  Currently a commission of jurists is creating a draft of the new charter document, which will be voted on by a “Constituent Assembly” chosen by popular suffrage on September 30th.  However, there are already indications that right-to-life guarantees in the current constitution, as well as the heterosexual definition of marriage, could be eliminated from the new constitution.

  Dr. Medardo Mora, president of the Commission of Jurists of the National Council of Superior Education (CONESUP), the organization charged with creating the first draft, has stated explicitly that the new constitution will remove existing safeguards for the unborn.  “It will be possible to interrupt pregnancies for therapeutic reasons”, he said recently. He justified his position by claiming that Church and State must be separated under the constitution, although this principle was already enshrined in the previous constitution.

  Pro-life organizations have responded to the threat by running radio and television advertisements reminding the Ecuadoran people of the value of human life. Television ads have shown images of unborn children, to the great consternation of pro-abortion forces in the country, who have denounced the advertisements as “sensationalist”.

  Ecuadoran leaders involved in the creation of the new constitution have also indicated their support for homosexual privileges in the new charter document.

  Julio César Trujillo, a member of the Commission, has openly stated his support for changing the concept of marriage rights in the constitution. “Regarding unions between people, he said that the current constitution is very general and somewhat restrictive, because regarding legal unions it only speaks of free men and women,” the Ecuadoran newspaper El Comercio reported recently.

Ecuador’s new leftist president, Rafael Correa, who has ties to Venezuela’s increasingly dictatorial leader, Hugo Chavez, has openly stated that he wants the document to allow homosexual unions. “There should be a certain level of security” for homosexual unions, he told the press recently, “but without going as far as marriage.”  He also stated his support for allowing homosexuals in the military, saying that “all discrimination should be eliminated.” 

  From the beginning of the process, pro-life and pro-family groups in Ecuador have warned that the new constitution would be used by international anti-family groups and socialists in the country to implement their  anti-life agenda. “The anti-life and anti-family political parties are: the Democratic Left, MPD, Pachakutik, the Socialist Party, and the Patriotic Society, which are today the big defenders of the [Constitutional] Assembly,” warned a coalition of pro-life groups in April of this year, before Ecuadorans voted to change the constitution.

  The pro-life groups, which included such groups as Acción Provida (Pro-Life Action), the Frente Ecuatoriano de Mujeres (Ecuadoran Women’s Front), and Abogados Pro-Vida (Pro-Life Attorneys), denounced the fact that the hope of constitutional change “has been reduced to corruption, lies, and deception, crafted by the empire and the participation of political groups and their representatives, whose interests are beneath the policies of the large multinational abortion groups.”

  They also noted that “the President of the Republic has appointed a pro-abortion leader as a representative for the commission for the Assembly, Paulina Romo, who on more than one occasion has expressed her total support for abortion to the media, and for a hedonistic education that excludes the participation and opinions of the parents, and for gay marriage.”

  While the first draft of the new constitution is being debated, the campaign for delegates to the Constituent Assembly, the convention that will be elected to approve the new constitution, is underway.

  Almost 90% of Ecuadorans are expressing dissatisfaction with the confusing and contentious campaign, in which more than three thousand candidates are running to fill only 130 seats, according to a recent Gallup poll.  The campaigns waged by candidates are seen as politicizing a process that is only meant to restructure the nation’s political system.

  In the politically unstable situation faced by the process of constitutional change, the Ecuadoran Catholic Bishops’ Conference has issued a statement, maintaining that representatives to the Constituent Assembly should be “Citizens who defend the inviolable and sacred right to life and the dignity of the human person, from conception until natural death, and the great and permanent values of the Ecuadoran family.”