Dominican Congress must approve the decriminalisation of abortion in three select circumstances Joint Statement

Santo Domingo, Paris, 22 October 2018.- FIDH, the Coalition for Women’s Rights and Lives (Coalición por los Derechos y la Vida de las Mujeres), a coalition comprising more than 80 social organisations, and CNDH, a national FIDH member organisation, call on the Dominican Congress to urgently process and approve the draft Criminal Code decriminalising abortion under three circumstances. The adoption and application of this law will guarantee minimal women’s rights to health and dignity, in line with the Domin-ican Republic’s international human rights commitments.

The draft of the revised Criminal Code is currently before the lower house’s Justice Commission and in-cludes the decriminalisation of abortion in three scenarios: when the mother’s life is at risk, when the pregnancy is not viable and when it is the result of rape or incest. This is but the very first step in de-fending Dominican women’s rights. The organisations jointly reaffirm the importance of including these three circumstances directly in the Criminal Code reform rather than considering them under a separate draft bill as some representatives have suggested, which is an attempt to block the possibility of legislat-ing on the partial decriminalisation of abortion.

“One year ago the Chilean parliament, despite obstacles, managed to approve these three cir-cumstances. It is time for the Dominican Congress to join the legislative shift in this direction and take this opportunity to leave the shameful clique of Latin American countries, including Nicara-gua, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti, that still enforce total bans on abortion”

said Juan Francisco Soto, Vice-President of FIDH and Director of CALDH-Guatemala.

The blanket ban on pregnancy termination exacerbates discrimination against the poorest women who are unable to go abroad to seek safe, legal abortions. Under outright abortion prohibitions, women re-sort to illegal and often extreme abortion methods, which pose a grave risk to their health and life. The Dominican Republic has one of the region’s highest maternal mortality rates.

FIDH and the Coalition for Women’s Rights and Lives recall that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has recommended, since 2013: the decriminalisa-tion of abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, as well as in cases of rape, incest and serious foetal malformation.

From the perspective of our organisations it is encouraging that President Danilo Medina has signalled his support for these exceptions, as have some members of Congress and the vast majority of Domini-can society. According to a survey conducted in June 2018, 79% of respondents agree with legal abor-tions if the mother’s health or life is at risk; 76% when the pregnancy is non-viable; and 67% when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

“Our struggle for a Criminal Code regulating the right to abortion as a public health and safety is-sue will not cease; these select circumstances are a first step toward achieving modern legisla-tion capable of safeguarding the life, health and dignity of women”

added Virtudes de la Rosa, co-coordinator of the Coalition for Women’s Rights and Lives.
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