Dominican Republic Pushes Back Decriminalizing Abortion

May 06, 2021
Interior of the Chamber of Deputies of the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic lawmakers have rejected the attempt to decriminalize abortion during the review of the penal code that is currently being considered by the lower house at first reading.

On April 28, the Dominican Republic’s Chamber of Deputies approved at first reading the new text of the Penal Code that excludes the decriminalization of abortion. The vote was obtained by an overwhelming majority: 146 votes in favor and 14 against.

The country is in the process of revising the penal code. While abortion has been banned since 1884, a report, treated as “dissident,” aimed at introducing three grounds for abortion in this new code: in the event of risk to the life of the mother, in the event of rape or incest, or finally when the fetus presents a malformation incompatible with life. This report was rejected by 111 votes to 45.

However, 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 the fetus in danger, all available scientific and technical means have been exhausted as far as possible.”

This article contains flawed wording, because, in practice, the situation described does not exist, except in countries or regions where the medical infrastructures are insufficient. What is morally possible is to give treatment to the mother, even if it is likely to be dangerous for the child: this then becomes a case of the principal of double effect.

But, that aside, it is heartening to see a country continue to follow the natural and divine law of unconditional respect for the innocent life. The episcopate must be credited with this result. It intervened vigorously to ensure that the country continues to respect this law.

If the penal code were approved in this way, it would maintain prison terms in other circumstances.

Thus, article 109 of the draft penal code determines sentences of two to three years in prison for anyone who causes or collaborates with the termination of a pregnancy, even if the woman consents.

This concerns doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health professionals, as well as midwives who, “abusing their profession or their function,” induce or help to perform an abortion.

If the woman dies as a result of the abortion, those found guilty will be sentenced to four to ten years in prison.

However, the new penal code must now be considered by the upper house.