QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuadors Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday in favor of decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, a decision that paves the way for laws imposing prison sentences in such cases to be changed.

The courts judges voted 7-2 in favor of declaring two articles of the countrys penal code unconstitutional. The decision came in response to a petition from seven womens, feminist and human rights groups.

The court now can demand the National Assembly reform the two articles or issue an order with deadlines and guidelines for its application.

Despite an order not to hold public gatherings, anti- and pro-abortion groups held demonstrations outside the Constitutional Court.

In the hours before the ruling, María de Lourdes Alcívar, the wife of President-elect Guillermo Lasso, said on her Twitter account: We pray to God that abortion is not approved in our country. It is murder.

Meanwhile, one of Ecuadors best known womens rights activists, Lolo Miño, tweeted: I am crying as I write this because I dont believe it! Today, girls and women who are the victims of rape in Ecuador have a second chance.