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Dominican Republic: Constitution Bans Abortion in All Cases

Conversations for a Better World This post is part of a series developed by Global Voices for the UNFPA blog Conversations for a Better World · All Posts

After an intense debate, in which doctors, sociologists, representatives of the Catholic Church, international health organizations, and politicians participated, legislators from the Dominican Republic ratified an article within the Constitutional Reform that makes it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy under any circumstance.

This decision, in which many say the influence of the Catholic Church and the proximity of upcoming Congressional elections played a large role, places the Dominican Republic among a small group of countries that Constitutionally prohibits abortion, including in health-related cases where the pregnancy places the fetus or the mother at risk. Females who have been victims of incest or rape also are banned from obtaining an abortion.

Abortion opposition banner outside the Cathedral in Santo Domingo by Duarte 101 and used with permission.

Abortion opposition banner outside the Cathedral in Santo Domingo by Duarte 101 and used with permission.

The article in question, currently known as Article 30, states: “the right to life is inviolable from conception until death. The death penalty cannot be established, decided, or applied in any case.”

Since its preliminary approval in April, protests have been constant [es]. Sociologist Rosario Espinal writes that women will now be deprived of a healthy and dignified life [es], adding that the doctors who performed illegal abortions will charge more money because of the higher risks.

Many believe that there will be an increase in clandestine abortions as a result of this decision, as well as higher rates of maternal mortality. However, the way that the Article was approved is also a subject for many bloggers.

Luis José López of Ahí e’ que Prende [es] highlights that the Article 30 has been the most controversial Article debated in this Constitutional Reform, and notes that even the human rights organization Amnesty International has come out against the decision [es]. According to López, the definition of a person's life merits a profound and sincere debate in which all interests are represented, and that is something that did not take place in the Dominican Republic:

El tema del aborto es un tabú en RD demasiado influenciado por las iglesias y las religiones. Mencionar la palabra es inclusive mal visto por muchos. Quienes se atreven a cuestionar el status quo, quienes se atreven a decir: “detengámonos a pensar” son inmediatamente censurados y condenados por el debate público.

The issue of abortion is taboo in the DR, overly influenced by the churches and religions. To even mention the word is even poorly seen by many. Those who dare to question the status quo, those who dare to say “let's stop to think” are immediately censored and condemned by the public debate.

With nearly 89% of the population identifying themselves as Roman Catholic, the Church has strong influence in all facets of society. However despite this strong faith, some bloggers like José Rafael Sosa, who is also Roman Catholic, does not agree that this personal decision should be regulated by the Constitution:

Respeto mi Iglesia pero ello no me impide analizar el dificil tema con mi optica. El espacio legal para enfrentar lo que se llama “Aborto Criminal”, no es la Constitución. Nadie en su sano juicio, puede apoyar que se aborte una criatura ya formada, genéticamente hablando, siempre que el embarazo sea producto de una decisión de la madre, no de una violación o que intervengan otras circunstancias clínicas. En primer lugar, el tema debió haber sido decididopor quienes traen hijos al mundo, no por puros hombres buscando votos de fe. En segundo lugar, no se buscaba consagrar constitucionalmente el derecho caprichoso a abortar. El aborto es una realidad social que no se gobierna con la dinámica de aprobación de leyes o artículos constitucionales. El aborto es una realidad social que ahora provocará un aumento de la mortalidad de las mujeres que tambien tienen una vida que ser preservada. Los culpables acaban de votar publicamente por esa posibilidad. Y eso es un crimen.

I respect my Church, but that does not impede me from analyzing the difficult topic through my viewpoint. The legal space to face what is called “Criminal Abortion” is not the Constitution. No one in their right judgment, can support the abortion of an infant, already developed, genetically speaking, when the pregnancy is the result of the mother's decision, and not because of rape or through the intervention of other clinical circumstances. First, the issue should have been decided by those who bring children into this world, and not by men looking for votes from the faithful. Second, no one was looking for the Constitution to consecrate the capricious right to abortion. Abortion is a social reality that is not governed by the dynamics of approval of Constitutional articles or laws. Abortion is a social reality that will now lead to an increase in the mortality of the women that also have a life that needs to be preserved. The guilty parties publicly voted for this possibility. And this is a crime.

In the end, some bloggers feel like the legislators arrived at the decision based on their political interests. In this manner, María Isabel Soldevila believes that Congress “turned their backs on the people. [es]” María de Jesús, a reader of Diario Libre [es] sums up her disgust:

Sarta de hipocritas y a los que se creen que se votó por la vida, cuando una mujer tiene que abortar porque su vida esta en peligro y no lo hace SE MUEREN LA MUJER Y EL FETO! Balsa de ignorantes! La muerte va a tener un dos por uno en Republica Dominicana. Que vergüenza ser dominicana de ahora en adelante.

A string of hypocrisy, and those that think they voted for life, when a woman needs to abort because their life is in danger and they do not, THE WOMAN AND THE FETUS DIES. What ignorance! Death will now be 2 for 1 in the Dominican Republic. How embarrassing it is to be Dominican from now on.
Translation by Eduardo Ávila

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