There are graffiti throughout Quito with the slogan “Yo Soy 65” — I am 65. The people behind it, a loose collective of young women’s rights and health access organizations, quote a recent national poll that says that 65% of Ecuadoreans today support access to a legal and safe abortion. And yet, abortion remains illegal and controversial in this country, except in the case of the rape of a developmentally challenged woman, or when a pregnancy threatens the life of a mother-to-be.
Ecuador has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in South America: 81 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. Not surprisingly, this trend is largely true for poor and working class women. Yet one positive development in women’s access to birth control came last year, with a new law requiring that the morning-after pill be accessible to all Ecuadoreans, regardless of their age, sex, religion, nationality or immigration status, with or without their parents’ or their partners’ authorization.
This is a huge step for a traditional Catholic society that saw birth control in much of the past 50 years as “immoral.”
Last week, 27 year-old abortion rights activist Veronica Vera gave us an interview about these very topics, and about her work running a hotline that guides women seeking an abortion. Her story, alongside others, will be out later this Fall.