Dominican Republic: Abortion as a Crime Retained in the Penal Code

December 02, 2021
Interior of the Senate of the Dominican Republic

The Senate of the Dominican Republic approved a new penal code that establishes penalties punishing femicide, domestic violence, and unwanted sexual activity, and maintains abortion as a crime that is only decriminalized when the life of the mother is in danger.

The approval of the Dominican Penal Code has been the subject of a vast debate for the past two decades, mainly due to the struggle between supporters of maintaining the criminalization of abortion in the country and those who advocate its decriminalization. in three cases: danger to the life of the mother, rape or incest, and non-viability of the fetus.

It should be noted, however, that article 112 stipulates that abortion “performed by specialized medical personnel, in public or private health establishments” is not punishable if, “beforehand, in order to save the life of the mother and fetus in danger, all available scientific and technical means have been exhausted as far as possible.”

It should be remembered that on April 28, the lower house had already maintained the current status during the first reading of the revision of the penal code.

The draft new code condemns chemical attacks, a practice that has caused death or permanent damage to many women, mostly victims of their ex-spouses.

It also provides for prison terms of 30 to 40 years for those who commit genocide with the aim of destroying a national, ethnic, racial, religious, or disability-based group.

Femicide, one of the most pressing social problems in the Dominican Republic, will be punished with 30 to 40 years in prison, as will murder.

For domestic violence, the penal code provides for sentences ranging from four to forty years in prison, while sexual assault in a relationship will be punished with sentences ranging from four to ten years in prison.

Administrative corruption is defined as “very serious” in the code, which provides for a sentence of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment and a ban on holding public office.

Harassment of children and adults will also be punished, as well as economic, financial, and psychological violence, in addition to physical violence.

The National Congress approved the Penal Code in 2014 and 2016, but each time the text was vetoed by then-president Danilo Medina for not allowing abortion for the three reasons that had been inserted there.

The bill will now return to the Chamber of Deputies, which has the power to approve it as received from the Senate or to make changes to it, upon which the initiative will revert to the upper house.