On Tuesday, the Senate of the Dominican Republic approved in second reading a bill to establish a new penal code, which does not include three grounds for the termination of pregnancy demanded by women's rights defenders.
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Over the last twenty years, feminists have been demanding that a new penal law legalize abortions if the pregnancy occurred due to rape or incest, the fetus had life-threatening malformations, or the woman’s life was in danger. These issues would modernize the current penal code, which dates back to 1884.
“The bill is a huge disappointment. It tells society that the rights of half the population can be postponed,” activist Sergia Galvan lamented, stressing that the Dominican Republic society is becoming more conservative.
To enter into force, the bill will have to be approved by the Lower House and President Luis Abinader. "Enacting the bill will cost him dearly," Galvan stated, recalling that Abinader has not made any statements since the bill began to be debated despite having shown support for the three grounds for the legalization of abortion in his electoral campaign.
The Dominican Republic has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Latin America and one of the highest maternal deaths in the world. According to the 2019 Americas Barometer, 61 percent of Dominicans agree to decriminalize abortion when the women's health is at risk or when the fetus is unworkable due to malformations.
Reforms to the Penal Code that do not recognize women's rights “will go ahead because the pressure from the Church is strong in our country,” Liberal Reformist Party (PLR) legislator Aidee Lopez lamented, considering that it is a great pity that religion affects civil rights.
“The new bill does not criminalize either domestic violence manifestations. This initiative is definitely a regression,” Lopez stressed.