December 7, 2015 — The highest court of the Dominican Republic on Wednesday ruled that amendments to the nation's criminal code that would have decriminalized some abortions are unconstitutional, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports (Moloney, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 12/4).
The Constitutional Tribunal's decision upholds a law from 1884 and cannot be appealed, according to the AP/Sacramento Bee. The court is scheduled to release the reasons for its ruling within the next few days (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/3).
Abortion is currently illegal in all circumstances in the Dominican Republic. Last year, President Danilo Medina urged lawmakers to decriminalize abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest and fetal anomalies (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/19/14).
The reforms were proposed in 2014, and Medina eventually signed them into law after they passed the Dominican Republic Congress. Prior to the Constitutional Court's ruling, the reforms were scheduled to take effect Dec. 27.
Erika Guevara, Americas director at Amnesty International, on Thursday said, "This decision takes women's and girls' human rights back to the 19th century."
She added, "Its impact 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." According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the country's abortion ban results in more than 90,000 unsafe abortions per year.
Separately, Sergia Galvan, spokesperson for the Dominican Republic-based rights group Women and Health Collective, said the constitutional court's decision "continues to place Dominican women, even those who long to be mothers, in a dilemma -- to die or go to jail -- when they require health services, such as abortion" (Thomson Reuters Foundation, 12/4).