(PRESS RELEASE) Despite more than 90,000 unsafe abortions occurring in the Dominican Republic each year and decades of international human rights law establishing a woman’s right to reproductive health care services, the Dominican Chamber of Deputies this week approved revisions to the country’s Penal Code that retains the country’s absolute ban on abortion, and the harsh criminal penalties associated with it, in place.
The Dominican Republic is one of only six countries in Latin America that completely bans abortion with no explicit exceptions. The revised Penal Code is now headed to Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina and is slated to pass next year.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The Dominican Republic forces countless women to risk imprisonment– even their health and lives—when they need abortion services.
“The criminalization of essential women’s health care destroys lives and devastates families. We will continue to fight these violations of women’s fundamental human rights in the Dominican Republic and across the globe.”
Earlier this year, the Center alongside reproductive health and human rights organizations testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on women’s rights issues in the Dominican Republic, including discrimination, violence and reproductive rights violations. Absolute abortion bans are violations of reproductive rights and fail to protect women whose health and lives are at risk, including domestic violence and sexual assault survivors who become pregnant.
Violence against women is rampant in the Dominican Republic. According to the Office of the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic —one of the highest State institutions responsible for guaranteeing fundamental rights in the country—86 women were murdered by their partners in 2013 and there were close to 10,000 domestic violence incidents reported from January through September 2013.
“In Latin America where the rates of sexual violence are among the highest in the world, women’s access to essential reproductive health care services should be the utmost priority,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Dominican Republic failed to do even the bare minimum to allow safe and legal abortion in cases of sexual assault and when the life and health of a pregnant woman is at risk. The President should veto this Penal Code and work with Congress to create laws and guidelines that respect women’s human rights.”
According to a recent Center report, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.