Dominican Republic: President Medina must stop a regressive reform for women’s rights

On 14 December the Dominican Congress adopted a reform of the Criminal Code which maintains the criminalization of abortion except when the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or girl but only after “all attempts had been made to save both the lives of the woman and the foetus.”

Under the current reform women will receive criminal sanctions of two to three years’ imprisonment and health professionals who provide abortion services between four to 10 years.

The text is now expected to be sent to President Danilo Medina for promulgation. The President has the power to object the proposed reform and insist on the exceptions to the criminalization of abortion, he proposed in 2014 These include decriminalizing abortion where the pregnancy poses a risk to the life or to the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman or girl, in cases where the foetus will be unable to survive outside the womb, and in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

“Any sudden U-turn of President Medina from his 2014 courageous position would be a betrayal for millions of Dominican women and girls whose rights and dignity would be at risk with this reform,” said Robin Guittard, Caribbean Campaigner for Amnesty International.

Any sudden U-turn of President Medina from his 2014 courageous position would be a betrayal for millions of Dominican women and girls whose rights and dignity would be at risk with this reform
Robin Guittard, Caribbean Campaigner at Amnesty International

Evidence shows that total bans on abortion do not reduce the number of abortions but instead increase the risk of women dying due to illegal, unsafe abortions, that restrictive abortion laws put women and girls living in poverty, and those living in rural and more isolated areas at particular risk of unsafe abortions.

Amnesty International and several Dominican women’s rights groups are concerned that the new narrowly framed exception would make it impossible in practice for women and girls whose lives were at risk to access abortion services. Its impact will be catastrophic for women and girls in the Dominican Republic who will continue to be criminalized, stigmatized and forced to seek out unsafe abortions.