Local July 28, 2016 | 7:59 am

Dominican women’s rights to reproductive health must be protected: UN

New York.- Expressing serious concern over the proposedpenal code amendment that would criminalize abortions, United Nations humanrights experts today urged the Dominican Republic’s President and legislatorsto protect women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health in the Caribbeancountry.

“We urge Dominican authorities to repeal all restrictivelegal provisions regarding abortion, especially in cases of risk to the health,including mental health, of the woman or girl, of rape and incest and of fatalimpairment of the fetus,” they stressed in a press release.

The experts’ call comes at a time when the Dominican Senatewill debate the reform of the Penal Code, which was adopted by the Chamber ofDeputies and promulgated by the President in 2014. The code partiallydecriminalized the access to abortion services under three circumstances,including when the life of a pregnant women or girl was at risk, when the fetuscould not survive outside the womb and when the pregnancy resulted from rape orincest.

The proposed text of the Criminal Code establishes thatwomen who induce the termination of their pregnancy will be liable to two tothree year-imprisonment sentences. Health professionals who perform abortionsunder any circumstances other than risk to the pregnant woman or girl’s lifewill be liable to four to 10 years in jail. Under the proposed amendment,terminating a pregnancy is only available in one case: when there is a risk forthe life of the pregnant woman or girl.

“In comparison with the text of the Criminal Code adoptedin 2014, the new proposal to amend the Dominican Criminal Code constitutes aclear regression in women’s and girls’ rights, especially to access safehealthcare services,” the experts said.

“Reducing access to such health services violates women’sand girls’ right to be protected against gender-based discrimination and fromtorture and ill-treatment,” they said.

“The Dominican Republic did not seize this key moment oflegislative amendment to reaffirm its commitment towards the elimination ofgender discrimination in its legislation and to advance women’s and adolescents.’sexual and reproductive rights but, rather, is attempting to remove crucialrights to reproductive health,” the experts deplored.

They urged President Danilo Medina and its government totake all necessary measures in accordance with their international human rightsobligations, to ensure that women and girls have effective and safe access toall necessary healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive services.

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