In a surprising turn of events, Guatemala moved to repeal a previous agreement that allowed Planned Parenthood to operate in the country.
Guatemalan President Dr. Alejandro Giammattei said in a statement that he cannot permit any organization "that violates what is provided in our political Constitution of the Republic" to be established. The country's constitution specifically says the state "protects human life from conception."
In early November, the government issued a decree allowing Planned Parenthood Global to register as a group in Guatemala. In a quick countermove, the country's top official, along with the vice president, political allies, and Christian groups, struck down the agreement and overturned it, according to Vice News.
"I recognize life from its conception, and therefore, in my government, I will not tolerate any movement that violates what is provided in our political Constitution of the Republic, that goes against the values with which I was raised and that conflicts with my principles as [a] doctor," Giammattei's statement explained.
Referring to himself as a "faithful defender of life," he emphasized that he would not support the registration or establishment of "any organization that goes against life."
Abortion is illegal in Guatemala save for a few exemptions, particularly in cases where the mother's life is at risk. The country's constitution specifically says the state "protects human life from conception."
On the other hand, Planned Parenthood Global, which is a division of Planned Parenthood in the US, partners with local organizations in Latin America and Africa to advance sex and reproductive health education, distribute contraceptives, and improve access to abortion. However, unlike its parent organization, Planned Parenthood Global does not have its own abortion clinics.
The agreement with Planned Parenthood was issued by Minister of the Interior Oliverio García Rodas. Giammattei reportedly had no knowledge that such a decree had been issued and only found out about it when the organization's authorization was published.
"It was not until the publication of the NGO's authorization that the president became aware of the error of authorizing an organization whose social aim is to attack the right to life, which, among other things, the state of Guatemala must safeguard," press secretary Francis Masek explained.
Shortly after Giammattei repealed the country's agreement with Planned Parenthood, Rodas turned in his resignation. The president said Rodak resigned "due to the error he had committed and considering that it was strongly opposed," according to CBN News.
The president's decision was lauded by the Family Matters Association of Guatemala. The organization thanked Giammattei for having a "firm statement" on the issue. They also complimented the president for protecting life from the time of conception.
Critics of the government claim the overturning of the decree was just a ploy to distract the people from accusations of corruption in the administration. However, Guatemala is indeed a highly conservative country. Almost half of its population is Catholic, and more than 40% is Protestant. Those who do not belong to any religious affiliation comprise just 11% of the population, notes CBN.