(PRESS RELEASE) Despite progress made by the Dominican Republic in 2014 to amend the penal code to decriminalize abortion in limited circumstances, the Constitutional Tribunal of the Supreme Court this week declared this amendment unconstitutional.
In December 2014, President Danilo Medina signed the country’s amended Penal Code that allows 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 momentous step toward expanding access to safe and legal abortion.
Conservative groups filed appeals soon after the law passed. The revised Penal Code was due to take effect in December 2015.
Said Catalina Martínez Coral, acting regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This Constitutional Court ruling is a major setback for the women of the Dominican Republic who should be able to access safe and legal abortion services.
“This decision goes against international human rights law and will only perpetuate further discrimination, stigma and abuse that women who need reproductive health services too often face.
“Global human rights and reproductive health activists will continue to fight for the decriminalization of abortion in the Dominican Republic.”
The Dominican Republic’s absolute ban on abortion has led to more than 90,000 unsafe abortions occurring in the country each year. Dominican Republic still remains 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.