Few choices, dire consequences: Dominican Republic's total abortion ban leaves women in peril

A promise made on the campaign and not kept has now sparked daily protests in the Dominican Republic for a month. one of two dozen nations in the world with a ban on abortion in all circumstances – even when a woman’s life is in danger.

Hundreds of women and reproductive rights lawyers gathered in front of President Luis Abinader’s mansion every day in mid-March, according to Dominican lawmakers Abortion could not be decriminalized If a woman’s life is in danger, pregnancy is not viable, or in the case of rape or incest.

The protests spread internationally in New York City, where lawyers organized solidarity protestsincluding a Friday when more than a dozen people with green and white signs stood up for the “right to life of pregnant people” and “their right to dignity”.

Abinader, who took office last year, pledged his support for decriminalizing abortion in these circumstances during his campaign – which effectively escalated tensions on the matter.

The president had doubled his support to decriminalize abortion during a conditional decriminalization Interview with the Spanish newspaper El País In December. The resulting backlash from various Dominican anti-abortion groups, including representatives of the Catholic Church, led him to soften his stance, saying: “not enforce his personal opinion”To other legislators.

The Dominican Republic belongs to El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, and Nicaragua as the Latin American and Caribbean nations that prohibit abortion in all circumstances. Amnesty International said in a report released on April 7th.

“What bothers me is seeing how everyone wants to regulate our bodies, women’s bodies, by law. It’s like the first thing on their agenda to control women. That’s not right. We have to change that – who tells a man “When should he have a vasectomy? Nobody,” said Zenaida Méndez, the Dominican in New York City mobilized for the issue.

A complete ban on abortions is always endangering the lives of Dominican women, said Méndez, who is also the founder of the non-partisan organization National Dominican Women ‘s Caucus.

Few decisions, bad consequences

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission The case of Rosaura Almonte, 16, also known as Esperancita, who died of leukemia in 2012, was admitted for review Doctors refused to give her chemotherapy She had to save her life because she was pregnant.

Rosa Hernández, Esperancita’s mother and avid abortion rights advocate, is one of the many women who have been Meet at a warehouse just outside Abinaders Executive Villaand say they will not leave until their demands are met and officials stop violating their constitutional rights to life and health.

The “laws in my country put the value of your pregnancy above the value of your life,” wrote Hernández in one op-ed for woman magazine published April 7th.

Leader of the movement #LasCausalesVanwhich relates to the three circumstances under which they believe abortion should be decriminalized in the Dominican Republic have received support from several groups. One of these groups is Articulación Nacional Campesina (National Farmer’s Articulation), a network of 100,000 small farms.

“Decriminalizing abortion means ending injustices,” said Yova Sánchez of Articulación Nacional Campesina in one press conference Tuesday morning.

Women and girls who are confronted with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies often have to choose between secret abortions or continuing their pregnancy. While some can afford to travel to another country where abortion is legal, others – especially women from poor and rural communities – risk their health and life to have clandestine abortions.

“Some suffer from serious health complications and even death from unsafe abortion,” said the international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch wrote in a 2018 report. “An estimated 25,000 women and girls are treated each year in the Dominican Republic’s public health system for complications from a miscarriage or abortion.”

Unsafe abortions are the fourth leading cause of maternal death in the country, and about 22 percent of these abortion interventions are performed in adolescents, according to government figures Center for Gender Studies at INTEC, a private university in Santo Domingo.

Abortion rights activists set up tents in front of the National Palace during a protest against parliament to end the full ban on abortion in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on March 18, 2021.Ricardo Rojas / Reuters file

In industrialized countries, the average maternal mortality rate is 21 per 100,000 live births. According to the INTEC Center for Gender Studies, the average rate in the Dominican Republic is 96 deaths per 100,000 live births. Complications from abortion or miscarriage account for at least 8 percent of maternal deaths, according to Human Rights Watch.

A woman forced to remain pregnant in life-threatening circumstances has a 90 percent chance of dying, Dr. Waldo Ariel Suero, President of the Association of Dominican Doctorssaid during a press conference on Friday next to the country National Nurses Association.

Both groups spoke out against criminalizing abortion because it “leads to an increase in maternal mortality and morbidity, which makes us one of the countries with the worst health indicators in the region and in the world,” said Suero.

“It is practically impossible for a woman to survive a life-threatening pregnancy. If you do nothing, not only does the baby die, but the mother too. It is completely illogical to take away a woman’s right to life because of pregnancy,” said Suero.

Medic at the press conference They also demand the possibility of terminating a pregnancy under the extreme circumstances stated, “without the fear of being judged legally”.

The Dominican Republic’s 19th-century penal code currently provides prison sentences of up to two years for women and girls who induce abortions and up to 20 years for medical professionals who provide them Human Rights Watch.

A growing movement in the midst of international support

The United Nations Development Program on Monday called on the Dominican Republic to decriminalize abortion when a woman’s life is in danger, pregnancy is not viable, or in the event of rape or incest.

A group of presidential advisers had already made the same recommendations on March 16, when the legislature did so Discuss updating the nation’s criminal code. However, the Dominican Justice Commission legislature rejected such recommendations, suggesting instead that the Criminal Code only allows abortion if the mother’s life is threatened.

On Sunday #LasCausalesVan Camp organizer remembered their months of struggle with a rally and musical performances outside the Executive Villa. Hundreds were there.

Activist Fátima Lorenzo said the international news agency Agencia EFE that the group started their movement with just a few camping tents. A month later, it has become a social movement that deserves the support of people who visit or donate to their camp.

“We couldn’t be more grateful for the support,” said Lorenzo. The group is planning further rallies and protests ahead of the public hearings on the matter should start on April 26th.

The activists posted a video where they asked a woman why she stopped by her tent.

“I’m here because I believe in what you’re asking,” said Mireya Cruz, who wore a # LasCausales face mask. “We fight for the life and health of our women.”

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