Dominican Republic delivers "huge blow" to women's right to life
The Dominican parliament has voted in favour of constitutional changes that could lead to a total ban on abortions, a move Amnesty International says will put women and girls at risk and increase maternal deaths. Approved by a majority vote of 128 to 34, Article 30 would introduce inviolability of life from "conception to death". "Dominican Parliamentarians have delivered a huge blow to the right to life of women and girls," said Susan Lee, Director of Amnesty International's America's programme. It is widely acknowledged that this will lead to changes in the Penal Code, which could lead to a ban on abortions in all circumstances. Now that it has been approved, Article 30 could severely limit the availability of safe abortions, even in cases when a woman is suffering from life-threatening complications or is in need of life-saving treatment incompatible with pregnancy – such as that for malaria, cancer or HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, access to safe abortion for women or girls who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest would become even more restricted. Amnesty International recently published a report looking at the impact of the total ban on abortion in Nicaragua. According to official data, the ban is contributing to an increase in maternal deaths across the country -- 33 girls and women have died in pregnancy so far in 2009 compared to 20 in the same period last year. Because of inadequacies in the country’s collection of maternal health data, these official figures are believed to be only a minimum. On Monday, Amnesty International called on the Congress of the Dominican Republic to reject the current formulation of Article 30. "Amnesty International will continue to stand in support of all Dominicans who oppose imprisonment or other criminal penalties for abortion," said Susan Lee. "We will also continue to advocate ensuring that safe and legal abortion services are available, accessible, and of good quality for all women and girls who require them in all cases where the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest and when the pregnancy poses a risk to the life or health of the woman."