Updated 3 weeks ago

Dominican Republic female population stands up

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital, on Sunday to protest legislation creating a new Criminal Code that makes it a crime to perform an abortion even if the pregnancy was the product of rape or incest, or the fetus has a serious medical condition.

The majority of them women, walked through the streets of Santo Domingo to Independence Park, where several speakers, including women’s rights activist Lourdes Contreras, called on President Danilo Medina to veto the legislation.

“As citizens, we strongly reject this new affront to the rights of women and girls in spite of the consensus reached in 2014 by all social sectors to allow abortions under certain circumstances,” Contreras, a university professor, said.

The Dominican Republic is one of only 6 countries in the world where abortion is not even allowed to save a woman's life. Faced with the possibility that this nineteenth-century legislation could give way to decriminalization by causes as part of the process of modification and updating of the Penal Code, the ultraconservative sectors of the country, led by the Catholic Church, obtained approval in January 2010 of an article Constitutional law that establishes the right to life from the moment of fertilization. In practical terms this article is equivalent to declaring the human person zygote, equating his right to that of the adult woman.

The maternal mortality rate (MM) of 159 per 100,000 live births estimated by ENDESA (2007) is disproportionately high in relation to the other social indicators in the country and has not been significantly reduced in the last decade. Although the MM is fundamentally associated with quality problems in hospital care, there is no doubt that the illegality of abortion contributes significantly to the high rates observed in the country.

Official statistics place induced abortion as the fourth cause of MM, attributing 13% of all cases, although in its "Analysis of the Situation of Unsafe Abortion” (2009), the Dominican Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics estimates the real figure at 20%. The conditions of illegality in which abortion is practiced do not allow to establish these percentages with certainty, nor to specify the number of abortions that are induced annually in the country.

The latest incidence estimate based on research data dates back to 1994 and placed the figure at 82,500 annual abortions. The Guttmacher Institute adjusted the estimate to 90,000 by the end of that decade and some Dominican specialists have speculated that the figure may have increased since then.


Article 37 of the Constitution raises concerns about its potential impact on maternal morbidity and mortality from abortion in two senses: First, that the fear of judicial consequences results in the refusal of doctors and doctors and / or health establishments to To perform therapeutic procedures when they are necessary to preserve the health or life of pregnant women (a situation in which cases have already been reported). Second, for the same reasons, the treatment of incomplete and complicated abortions that reach health facilities can be affected.

This last consideration is very important given the well-documented fact that many low-income Dominican women are forced to start the process on their own, and then go to a public hospital if a cure is necessary, either to complete the process Abortion or to attend to complications resulting from self-induction or inadequate medical procedures.

Since the solutions to the problem of maternal morbidity and mortality from abortion are quite obvious, the question is why the necessary measures are not taken.