By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

SANTO DOMINGO, April 22, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Dominican Republic has voted to approve language in its new constitution protecting the right to life from the moment of conception.

Article 11 of the new constitution, which was approved by a large majority of 167-32, states that "the right to life is inviolable from conception until death.  The death penalty cannot be established, pronounced, nor applied, in any case."

The approval of the article came in the wake of a series of massive campaigns by the Catholic bishops of the Dominican Republic, led by Cardinal Archbishop Nicolas de Jesus Lopez of Santo Domingo.

The Cardinal has organized marches, has given a speech on national television, and has staged large-scale protests outside of government buildings and in other places over the past two years.

On Easter Sunday, a little more than a week before the vote, the Cardinal and other priests gave sermons on the importance of protecting the right to life (see LifeSiteNews coverage at http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/apr/09041703.html).

The nation’s Evangelical Protestant churches have also had a major influence on the outcome.  Organized by such leaders as Dr. Gene Antonio, they have succeeded in playing video of abortions on national television and have distributed tens of thousands of flyers to Dominicans.

"We are thrilled that the protection of human life from the moment of conception is now established into the constitution in spite of fierce international pressure to legalize abortion," stated Antonio. "This overwhelming victory serves as an example to the other Latin countries fighting to protect life, that we can win and we must win because the lives of little people are at stake."

The article passed despite pressure from pro-abortion groups, whom Catholic Church officials have accused of representing the international abortion lobby, as well as opposition from the Dominican Medical College.

Passage of article 11 ensures that the Dominican Republic’s existing penal code, which punishes abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is at stake, will remain intact despite the pressure exerted by international and domestic pro-abortion organizations.

Related LifeSiteNews Coverage:

Santo Domingo Cardinal Calls Abortionists "Butchers" and "Merchants" in Easter Homily
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/apr/09041703.html

Interview: Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Gives Prescription for Defeating International Abortion Lobby
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jan/09012204.html

Catholics in Dominican Republic Plan Offensive Against Abortion
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/oct/07100301.html

Dominicans Stage Massive Pro-Life Demonstration at National Congress
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/oct/07102607.html

Dominican Republic Protest Against Attempt to Legalize Abortion
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/aug/07082409.html