As the Dominican Congress debate a revised penal code that would decriminalise abortion, the country’s Catholic bishops urge the government to respect the right to life.
‘Life’, the bishops said, ‘is the first civil right that is mentioned in our Constitution in its art. 37, which reads: ‘The right to life is inviolable from conception to death.’ Life is a right prior to all legislation. Without life there are no possibilities to enjoy any other right,” read their statement of the 10th January.
“According to our own Constitution, the State cannot apply the death penalty even to the worst offenders, since it says: ‘The death penalty may not be established, pronounced or applied, in any case.’ So, how to accept that in our country abortion is consecrated, in the so-called three causes, in which innocent creatures are killed, the nasciturus (the unborn child)?”
The republic’s President, Luis Abinader, the Dominican businessman who came to power in a landslide in 2019 with over half the country voting for him, confirmed his campaign promise to support women in the termination of pregnancy – ‘under three grounds’ – the safety of the mother, rape and “severe fetal malformation”, at the end of December last year amid mounting pressure from feminist groups.
The bishops called the ‘so-called three grounds’ a ‘flagrant constitutional violation’. They said to pass it into law would be a serious breach of the right to life based on a ‘wrong interpretation of the constitution’.
“We are shocked to know that in our society there are those who think that sacrificing innocent children under euphemistic names such as ‘a decision about one’s own body,’ ‘women’s empowerment’ or ‘sexual and reproductive rights’ can be seen as part of authentic progress.”
Regarding “therapeutic abortion,” the bishops explain that “Medical ethics indicates that in the case of complications in a pregnancy, efforts should be made to save mother and child and never see the premeditated death of one of them as an easy way out, as established in the official protocols of the Ministry of Public Health, which have been used in public hospitals in our country for many years.”
After Argentina’s landmark ruling to legalise abortion up till fourteen weeks earlier this month, the Dominican Republic may be the next past the post.