SANTA DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, July 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Dominican legislators delivered a stern rebuff to President Danilo Medina and the Caribbean nation’s feminists by voting 132-6 for a reformed Penal Code that leaves intact the 1884 law criminalizing all abortions.
Eleven feminist organizations rallied against the vote but could muster only a few dozen protesters in front of the National Palace, calling on Medina to veto the restrictions, which include a prison sentence between two to four years for a woman who aborts her child and up to 10 years for health workers.
Fidel Lorenzo, president of the Dominican Evangelical Unity Council representing more than 5,000 Protestant churches, applauded the result, telling Dominican Today: “It’s a significant step taken by the country. We have a code in keeping with the times after more than 15 years of struggles and defending the culture of protection of life.”
Given that the changes must be still be endorsed by the Senate and ratified by the pro-abortion Medina, a more muted approval came from prominent Catholic spokesman Father Manuel Ruiz. He said that, if the bill passes all of the hurdles, “It would be cause for joy.”
Dominican Today reported that Elias Wessin Chavez, president of the Quisqueyano Christian Democratic Party, said of the vote: “It was a moralizing message of respect for human life, and the Lord sees us with good eyes.”
Abortion is illegal in all cases under the 1884 Penal Code, though its defenders claimed that no one was ever charged or convicted for abortions done strictly to save a woman’s life. Nonetheless, pressure was intense when the legislators elected in 2010 drafted a new Penal Code, from both feminist organizations and foreign non-profits, to insert exemptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest, unborn children with disabilities, and pregnancies that risked the mother’s life.
But Catholic and evangelical churches pushed back and the amendments were removed from the Penal Code draft that was passed in 2014 by Congress. However, Medina refused to ratify the code until Congress put the exemptions back in. Pro-life groups appealed the final result to the constitutional court, which ruled at the end of last year that the exemptions violated the constitutional recognition of the rights of the unborn.
In the latest phase of the standoff, the Senate must now consider whether to vote for a version of the Penal Code that preserves the absolute prohibition on abortion and which Medina is likely to veto, or to amend it to suit Medina and the feminists, which the constitutional court will likely reject. In the meantime, the old code prevails.
The coalition of feminist organizations claim that the status quo means “condemning to death thousands of vulnerable women in the country” by forcing them to get illegal abortions.
Late last week, newspapers in the Dominican capital were full of stories on the discovery of the bodies of six unborn babies ages four to 12 weeks, two boys and four girls, beside Santa Domingo’s San Isidro Highway. The cause of death was listed as unknown.