Trying to Change Dominican Republic’s Abortion Law (Somewhat)

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina has called upon legislators to change parts of the Dominican Republic’s draconian abortion law. In a constitutional amendment passed in 2009, abortion cannot be performed in any circumstances. This includes even in cases of rape or incest, and in cases where the mother could die. President Medina is urging the Dominican Congress of changing the law so that an abortion can be performed in emergency or extraordinary cases. These cases are rape, incest, or in an effort to save the life of the mother. President Medina is not arguing getting rid of this law altogether, nor with the religious notion (written into the constitutional amendment) that life begins at conception.

This case has become a litmus test just like in the Republic of Ireland and in El Salvador. The Church in all three countries has had a strong hand in banning abortion and even making it a criminal offense to get an abortion for any reason. Those women who seek abortions, and any doctors who perform them, can now be sentenced to between four to ten years in prison. Since this abortion law was passed, death from illegal abortions in the Dominican Republic has become the third largest cause of maternal mortality. This of course does nothing to stop illegal abortions in the country. It is estimated that now triple the number of abortions are being carried out compared to before the law was passed in 2009. But such abortions are now far more dangerous, and often done by people who are ill-qualified to perform them.

What President Medina is trying to propose is that certain circumstances be warranted for why abortions should be performed. The chances for even these changes will most likely not happen. The congressional legislators and the Catholic Church are totally opposed to all changes. Since they have already had a law passed that states “life begins at conception,” then there can be no room for compromise. This is medieval thinking in its purest form. This means that not only will women in the Dominican Republic suffer from rape or incest, but even be jailed for trying to terminate an unwanted child who will most likely be born into a cruel and unfeeling world filled with pain. Medina has one more year in office, and I hope he can change this part of an unjust law before he leaves.

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