Abortion restriction legislation sparks debate in Puerto Rico
The Puerto Rican Senate has commenced consideration of a bill that will restrict abortion rights, which is being pushed to pass by conservative Puerto Rican lawmakers of both main local parties, the Popular Democratic Party in the majority, and the main opposition New Progressive Party. With this new bill, controversy and debate have arisen in Puerto Rico, similarly to the mainland United States, regarding abortion and women’s rights.
With the new bill, getting an abortion in Puerto Rico would be forbidden beginning at twenty-two weeks of gestation. A reservation is applied if the woman’s life is in danger. There is currently no term limit for Puerto Rican abortions, but health officials say 99% of women in Puerto Rico get an abortion before 22 weeks.
In the past few years, many US states have been increasing regulations on abortion rights. Roe v Wade, a landmark decision that gave pregnant women the right to decide on abortion, equally applied in Puerto Rico as a US territory. However, many feminist and pro-choice groups in Puerto Rico are becoming increasingly concerned that with the new bill, Roe v Wade and their constitutional rights are becoming increasingly approached.
Recently, a Puerto Rican Senate Committee voted to approve the bill. Puerto Rico’s Health and Justice departments advised against the bill, but that didn’t stop the bill from receiving several in-favor votes. The final tally in the Senate Committee was nine to three in favor. The territory’s Secretary of Health said that the new bill doesn’t consider women’s well-being or patient and doctor correspondence.
The new bill has support from both the PDP, NPP, as well as Project Dignity (PD). The authors of the bill come from those three parties: Senator Joanne Rodríguez Veve (PD), along with the President of the Puerto Rican Senate and of the Popular Democratic Party, José Luis Dalmau (PDP, D), and Senator Thomas Rivera Schatz, (NPP, R). The bill is also causing obvious division within parties in Puerto Rico for those in opposition to the bill. Fellow PDP members and former governors Sila Maria Calderon, Anibal Acevedo Vila, and Antonio Garcia Padilla have come out against the bill, illustrating an uncharacteristic rift within the party. Further inflaming tensions, feminist groups and many local citizens were angered when Dalmau, called those who get an abortion “murderers”. Those against the bill from the PDP and NPP congregated around the Capitol to protest in opposition to the bill.