SANTO DOMINGO – 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 protesters, the majority of them women, marched 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 has a high maternal mortality rate, a problem linked “to an important degree” to clandestine abortions performed under bad conditions, affecting poor women, in particular, Contreras said.
The protest was organized by the Coalition for the Rights and Lives of Women, whose leaders said women had the right to end a pregnancy if it occurred against their will, their lives were in danger or the fetus had a congenital condition that endangered its life.
“We demand that the president stand up for his commitment to the right to life and health of all Dominican women, and that he note that the Criminal Code approved (by Congress) promotes femicides by the state, an example of institutionalized violence against women,” the coalition said in a statement.
The Senate voted last week to continue to penalize abortions, with those convicted of performing an abortion facing prison terms of two to 10 years if convicted.
Lawmakers came under intense pressure from the Catholic Church and Protestant churches to ban abortions in the Caribbean nation.