(PRESS RELEASE) A group of United Nations experts urged President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic to work with legislators to protect women and girls’ rights to sexual and reproductive health.
In a statement to President Medina Wednesday, the U.N. experts urged the Dominican Republic to “repeal all restrictive legal provisions regarding abortion, especially in cases of risk to the health, including mental health, of the woman or girl, or rape and incest and of fatal impairment of the fetus.” This U.N. statement is a result of communications sent by the Center for Reproductive Rights and several partner organizations to different U.N. Rapporteurs.
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 a year later the Constitutional Tribunal of the Supreme Court declared the amendment unconstitutional on procedural grounds.
Said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Women and girls in the Dominican Republic should be able to access safe and legal abortion services, yet continue being denied their reproductive rights.
“We commend these U.N. experts for condemning the Dominican government for disregarding the health and lives of women and girls.
“President Medina and legislators now have an opportunity to end the discrimination, stigma and abuse women and girls face. The Dominican Republic Criminal Code must be amended to decriminalize abortion once and for all.”
This U.N. statement coincides with the Dominican Senate debating a new penal code that is far more restrictive than the previous version adopted in 2014. Contrary to established international human rights norms, the draft penal code only permits abortion where pregnancy threatens the woman or girl’s life and maintains harsh prison sentences for women and health care providers.
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.