(PRESS RELEASE) Yesterday, the Dominican Republic’s Senate (Congress’s upper chamber) voted against advancing a penal code that would allow women access to safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment and when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk—a major blow to women’s reproductive autonomy.
President Danilo Medina signed the country’s amended Penal Code in December 2014 that would allow women access to safe abortion services in limited circumstances—a momentous step forward. However conservative groups filed appeals soon after the law passed and in December 2015 the Constitutional Tribunal declared the amendment unconstitutional on procedural grounds. The Senate approved a revised penal code in December 2016 that removed the decriminalization of abortion and on December 19, 2016, President Medina vetoed the amended penal code via a letter (observación presidencial) to the Senate requesting that they reinsert language to the amended penal code that allows women access to safe abortion services in limited circumstances.
In response to President Medina’s letter, a Congressional Commission presented a report to the Senate rejecting the presidential observations, and the Senate confirmed the report voting against the decriminalization of abortion and allowing sentences up to 3 years for women and up to 10 years for the medical professionals.
Said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“No woman facing a pregnancy from rape or life-threatening complications should be forced to put her health and well-being at risk.
“Yesterday’s decision disregards the health and lives of women and girls.
“The Center will continue to work with local reproductive health advocates to lift this complete ban on abortion and finally give access to reproductive rights to all girls and women in the Dominican Republic, once for all.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights and local partner and Colectiva Mujer y Salud alerted the United Nations Human Rights Council on multiple occasions about the abortion ban in the Dominican Republic. U.N. human rights experts released a statement on January 25, 2017 calling on the country’s “legislators to protect women and girls’ rights to sexual and reproductive health in the country by supporting President Danilo Medina’s position against regressive amendments of the Penal Code regarding abortion.”
The Dominican Republic’s absolute ban on abortion has led to more than 90,000 unsafe abortions occurring in the country each year. Until today, Dominican Republic was one of the few countries left in Latin America that completely bans abortion with no explicit exceptions.
According to a recent Center report, more than 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.