Total Abortion Ban Reinstated in Dominican Republic

Abortion under any circumstances (even when the mother's life is at risk) is a criminal offense in this Caribbean country.


PAHO/WHO / Flickr

The Dominican Republic's Constitutional Court has reinstated the country's total ban on abortion, including cases in which a pregnant woman's life is at risk. 

In December 2014, Dominican President Danilo Medina approved measures decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity, as well as situations where the mother's life would be endangered by carrying the pregnancy to term. The reforms were set to take effect December 19, 2015. But religious and socially conservative groups appealed, arguing in court that the country's constitution protects the rights of "unborn children" from the moment of conception. On Wednesday, the D.R.'s Constitutional Court agreed, holding that the attempted changes to the country's criminal code were unconstitutional. 

Opponents of the court's decision say the country's total abortion ban puts girls and women at risk by prompting pregnant women to visit black-market abortion doctors and forcing them to give birth even when it's physically dangerous. "This decision … will be catastrophic for women and girls in the Dominican Republic who will continue to be criminalized, stigmatized and forced to seek out unsafe abortions because they are denied access to safe and legal medical treatment," said Erika Guevara, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement.

Amnesty was one of several major rights groups that filed amicus curiae briefs in suport of the abortion-law reforms. The groups noted that "the Inter-American Court, as the only authorized interpreter of the American Convention on Human Rights, has established that the protection to the right to life is not absolute and cannot be used to justify the denial of other rights. Faced with conflicting rights, it would be possible to invoke exceptions to the protection of the right to life from the moment of conception."

The Dominican Republic is far from the only Latin American or Caribbean country with stringent restrictions on abortion. In general, "Latin America remains a bastion of draconian anti-abortion legislation, where the termination of a pregnancy is almost universally considered a criminal act," as Annie Kelly explains at The Guardian. "Most countries operate an exemptions approach, where abortion is illegal but penalties are waived in a few specific circumstances."

Like the Dominican, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras also ban abortion in all circumstances. Amnesty International recently took a look at how the ban affects El Salvadoran women, who not only can't terminate a pregnancy legally but risk being arrested and imprisoned for murder when they miscarry naturally or give birth to a stillborn.

"It is common for an assumption of guilt to be the starting point of investigations and of the criminal proceedings brought against these women," Amnesty noted. "This starting point gives rise to further expressions of institutional violence, reflected in the attitude and behaviour of medical staff in the public health system, throughout the process of investigation, and in the proceedings of the criminal justice and penal systems."

Prison sentences for these women can be as much as 40 years. 

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  1. To be fair, America needs baseball players.


  2. Man, if they keep this up the DR is gonna become a dilapidated backward shithole.

    1. That would almost be quasi-clever, except for the fact that the DR is actually one of the more successful and prosperous independent Caribbean countries.

      Most particularly considering that the very-worst country in the region (haiti) is strapped to their ass and constantly causing them problems.

      1. And what would NYC be without the DR?

        /blasts Luny Tunes

        1. I think puerto ricans are far more prevalent in NYC than dominicans. like 10-1

          1. Puerto Rican here; can confirm, seeing as how about half of NYC’s boricua pop is some kind of extended family of mine or other.

            1. Puerto Rican here

              Is the Puerto Rican flag painted on the hood of your car, or is it dangling off of the rear-view mirror?

              Were you related to Big Pun?

                1. That’s great.

                  I miss you, Terror Squad.

                  1. Confession = I never actually liked Big Pun

                    I like this guy!

              1. Is the Puerto Rican flag painted on the hood of your car, or is it dangling off of the rear-view mirror?

                Rear-view mirror and front plate, as per the sacred custom of my people.

                1. Please tell me you have a push button ignitio. Switch I side your glove box and a horn that only works by pressing g a putting that has been attached to your dashboard by wood screws.

                  That’s what both my cars had when I bought them in PR.

                  1. I wish I were that cool. Wifey can only put up with so much island pride in a car she’s obliged to ride in from time to time, heh.

                    1. I miss my time there. Had a 73 Cutlass with all of those things and a hood that I had bunker corded down after it flew open on my on Hwy 3 one day. And my other cars were a 70 vw bus with a hole in the floor under the driver big enough to crawl through and the 70 beetle i was restoring until I ran over (under) a horse late one night.

                      Luquillo representing!

              2. Gosh… this is wonderful. Immaculate, you want I should give the loudmouth the Lolita treatment?

          2. Apparently they’re both affectionately known as “south niggas” among NYC’s black community. I thought that was funny.

            1. first i’ve ever heard it.

              Also = i’ve never heard them refer to each other very “affectionately”.

              1. From my experience, Puerto Ricans hate Dominicans with a passion. Especially the ones that snuck in and took all of the dishwasher and housekeeping jobs at the resorts.

                I had two Dominican pot washers in my kitchen. Every single Puerto Rican working there despised them the day they showed up.

          3. I think Dominicans overtook Puerto Ricans a few decades ago – certainly by count of current immigrants if not descendants.

      1. I thought adding “Ay yi yi!” may be too much.

  3. Dominican prosecutor: Look, you can either have the abortion and get 40 years, or keep the kid for 8, let him walk to school while you’re sleeping, and get 10 years.

    1. Gosh! Between a sword and a hard place…

    1. Jenny Fry, 15, suffered from an acute case of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome, which causes blinding headaches and nausea when victims come in contact with the kind of EM fields created by wireless hot?spots, according to the Daily Mirror.

      Presented as if it were real.

      1. I will gladly chip in to the crowd-sourced double-blind Faraday cage test to prove all these idiots wrong once and for all.

      2. Oh exactly. A spread-spectrum signal in the 2.4-5ghz range… yeah, totally causes an allergy.

      3. Isn’t there a whole commune of these guys living near one of the big telescopes. They aren’t allowed to have electric lights out there, so it’s easy to find an area with no major signals.

        1. They’ll have the last laugh when they’re the only ones the government can’t locate in order to put in camps

      4. Yeah, if anything (other than the kid herself) caused this tragedy it was all the people who let her believe she had some non-existent disease rather than helping her realize it was something else (potentially mental/psychological).

  4. Abortions for none!

    1. Nor tiny American flags, either!

  5. Huh, alright, so why is this a big deal?

    1. Polls clearly show that the male-dominated readership of Reason has a huge interest in the topic of Abortion…

      ….particular in ‘other countries’ where Libertarians have a great interest in intervening to influence their domestic policies. Duh.

      1. So it’s bad to have compassion for people living under authoritarian regimes and to want to try to help those people by encouraging liberty-oriented reforms?

        1. There’s a lot of assumptions in that sentence that aren’t doing anyone any favors.

          re: “compassion for people”

          most libertarians would probably say, “nothing is stopping private orgs, personal charity” from “helping” people abroad. Pretending that if the Govt isn’t doing something, it isn’t being done, is a common statist claim.

          re: The DR is an ‘authoritarian regime’? When people abroad vote for authoritarians, are proper-minded libertarians supposed to encourage undermining them as part of our general foreign policy view?

          re: “Liberty oriented reforms” – You slot ‘abortion’ under those? and think everyone else should too?

          1. There’s a lot of assumptions in that sentence that aren’t doing anyone any favors.

            Agreed. Its hard to come to an agreement when values differ greatly.

            1. Let me elaborate. I think liberty should be maximized. I also see all people as being equal, regardless of what country they happen to be in. So when a country institutes illiberal policies, such as a total ban on abortion, I will always advocate against that policy. After all, even if a majority of the people in that country support that policy, there is still minority that is being oppressed. (And note, I’m not calling for the US government to go in and “fix” things. I’m just advocating, as a private citizen, for a liberty-oriented change in their domestic policies.)

          2. “re: The DR is an ‘authoritarian regime’? When people abroad vote for authoritarians, are proper-minded libertarians supposed to encourage undermining them…”

            I agree. A vast majority of French people, for example, don’t want libertarian gun control laws. So why should libertarians care?

  6. Coming soon to a theater near you, if Republicans get their way. Or at least the way of the Republican base.

    1. Coming soon to a theater near you

      Abortion megaplexes?

    2. Re: Jackass Ass,

      Marxians want utopia, they just don’t want people born into it.

  7. “Latin America remains a bastion of draconian anti-abortion legislation, where the termination of a pregnancy is almost universally considered a criminal act,”

    Uh… because it is?

    Also curious how El Salvador’s barbaric practice of jailing women who miscarry — a savage practice which is unique to El Salvador and which is not representative of the situation in Chile, the DR, Nicaragua, or Honduras — has anything to do with the DR’s decision to keep its existing laws.

  8. The Dominican Constitution, in Article 37, provides:

    “The right to life is inviolable from conception to death. The death penalty cannot be established, pronounced or applied, in any case.”

    “(OMG those hypocrites, banning abortion and allowing a death pen…hey, no fair, they *prohibited* the death penalty! What happened to our meme?”)

    The court’s decision was based on Article 37. Also,

    “The organizations that brought the challenge also pointed out the irregularities in the process that was used to push through the law. The Dominican Republic’s constitution requires both chambers of the legislature to approve laws before they can be sent to the president for his signature, however in this case only the House of Representatives voted on the final bill before it was given to the president.”


  9. Opponents of the court’s decision say the country’s total abortion ban puts girls and women at risk by prompting pregnant women to visit black-market abortion doctors and forcing them to give birth even when it’s physically dangerous.

    To me, this is the most logical argument for legalized abortion.

    1. Back-alley abortionists like Kermit Gosnell?

      1. Because all legal abortionists in the US behave like Kermit Gosnell?

        1. No, because you don’t have to look in prolife countries if you’re looking for back-alley abortionists.

    2. Argument? Dominicanos–the ones with government guns–are into brainwashing! Argument is heresy.

  10. Opponents acknowledged at the time (2009-10) that the prolife guarantee in the constitution would ban abortion.

    United Nations representatives, including a UNICEF official, tried to stop this provision from being adopted. UNICEF is, of course, the UN *Children’s* Fund.

    At the time these UN people were unsuccessfully promoting abortion in the Dominican Republic, the UN Web site assured the public that “the legal status of abortion is the sovereign right of each nation.” And the UN “does not provide support for abortion or abortion related activities anywhere in the world.”

    But enough of the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel fun of bashing the UN!

    The key point is that the pro-abortion side knew full well that the Dominican constitution banned abortion. So the court ruling shouldn’t be surprising.

  11. I might be late to the whining, but why I am I getting a red block pop-up asking me to donate when I’ve already donated?

    1. You didn’t donate enough, cheapskate.

      1. I guess – according to a rough calculation, I’m under the average.

        1. The Koch Brothers’ contributions really mess with that average.

          1. Hah! I’m pretty sure they’re not clicking on a webathon link.

            1. Of course not. They stuff their checks into Matt and Nick’s undergarments, provided they are satisfied with the dancing.

              1. And…I’m off to shop for brain bleach.

  12. I’ll donate when they move the head office to Saskatchewan, till then I’ll continue to straight up steal the content this magnificent mess of a publication

  13. Now we know where Baby Hitler’s parents would have had to move.

  14. Hey, re Supreme Court has made it ruling, the time for debate is over.

    Is that not the way these things work?

  15. DR’s stance on abortion seems perfectly in keeping with the belief that fetuses have a full right to life from conception. I guess its just extra incentive to not get raped or give yourself a life-threatening complication…

    1. Or an extra incentive not to kill children for the sins of their fathers.

      The constitutional clause protecting the right to life bans the death penalty.

      So you can’t execute rapists in the Dominican Republic (any more than you can in the US).

      But in the US, unlike the Dominican Republic, you can execute the rapist’s innocent child.

      1. Unwelcome fetuses are not “innocent”.

  16. They must be trying to outdo Haiti in the race back to the Dark Ages.

    1. In the Dark ages people weren’t sure an early-stage fetus was even alive.

      It took *science* to show that the fetus *is* alive from conception.

      The people who keep dismissing the humanity of the early-stage fetus are the dark age fetus.

      1. the dark age *fanatics*

  17. I was born in the Dominican Republic.

    It’s an ass-backward place.
    Rest assured, abortion is only illegal to the poor.
    You can murder anyone in the D.R. and bribe your way out of it.
    Extremely corrupt country that I only visit when a key relative dies.
    Not a place you want to rent a car. The cops target tourist for bribes.

    Unless you plan to get to the airport, have a caged bus take you to your resort, stay in that resort the entire time, have the same caged bus take you back to the airport; don’t wonder around.

  18. Dude that like the coolest thing ever man.


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