Members of the Honduran Congress voted on Thursday to amend the constitution making it much harder to reverse existing hard-line bans on abortion and same-sex marriage, as lawmakers double down on socially conservative priorities.
Lawmakers voted to require a three-quarters super-majority to change a constitutional article that gives a fetus the same legal status of a person, and another that states that civil marriage in the Central American nation can only be between a man and a woman.
With 88 legislators in favor, 28 opposed and seven abstentions, the proposal will still need a second vote in the unicameral legislature next year before it is enacted.
Currently, all constitutional changes require a two-thirds majority vote of the 128-member body.
Mario Perez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, explained during a virtual floor debate that the change will create a “constitutional lock” on any would-be softening of the existing articles.
The country’s criminal code sets out three to six-year prison terms for women who abort a fetus as well as anyone else involved.
“This legislation permanently condemns pregnant women or pregnant girls who have been raped or risk dying due to health reasons,” said Merary Mendoza, a researcher with the Honduran women’s studies center CEMH.
Kevihn Ramos, the head of a gay rights advocacy group in Honduras, blasted the lawmakers who voted to make it harder to change the two constitutional articles.
“This reform is the product of a state-imposed religion on Honduras,” he said.