Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights filed an amicus curiae brief this week before the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic urging the Tribunal to uphold the constitutionality of a recent amendment to the Penal Code that decriminalized access to abortion when the woman's life is at risk and when the pregnancy is a result of rape, among other limited circumstances. Before the passage of the Penal Code amendment in December, the Dominican Republic was one of only a few countries in the entire world to impose blanket criminalization of abortion in all circumstances, seriously jeopardizing the right to life and access to critical health services for women and forcing many to seek unsafe and illegal alternatives. While the Penal Code amendment was a great step forward for the protection of women's rights in the Dominican Republic, the measure is currently being challenged before the Constitutional Tribunal by groups wanting to return to the blanket ban.
The amicus brief submitted by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights on Tuesday highlights the international human rights framework in support of the decriminalization of abortion, in particular in the specific exceptions provided for by the recent Penal Code amendment in the Dominican Republic. Authoritative international human rights bodies have repeatedly highlighted the myriad violations that result from blanket bans on abortion, and have consistently urged governments to decriminalize abortion and provide critical health services to protect a woman's right to life and right to bodily integrity. The criminalization of therapeutic abortions also has a disproportionate impact on the poor and results in higher maternal mortality rates and disabilities due to illegal and unsafe medical procedures. International bodies have also found that denying abortion in cases of rape, incest, or fetal malformation can constitute a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
In reaching its decision in the present case, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights calls on the Constitutional Tribunal to fully comply with international human rights standards that protect the rights of women in the Dominican Republic by upholding the amendment to the Penal Code as constitutional. Failing to do so would be a detrimental setback to women's rights in the country and the region, once again placing the lives of many in serious danger.