With the Supreme Court deciding on Friday, June 24 to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortions nationwide, an examination of the recent history, as well as the status quo surrounding abortion in Puerto Rico can help us understand how influential this decision truly is.
Even before the decision was officially released, a Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked in May, revealing the institution’s plan to undo Roe. Similar to the mainland, Puerto Ricans angered by the outcome of this decision took their frustrations to the streets. On Saturday, May 28, the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, hundreds of activists gathered in San Juan, Puerto Rico to protest America’s attack on abortion rights. Protestors’ signs read “Aborto Libre” or “Free Abortion” and “Mi Cuerpo, Mi Decisión” meaning “My Body, My Choice.” But these calls went ignored by Puerto Rico’s leaders, who have attempted to reverse Puerto Rico’s pro-abortion laws and continue to forward their pro-life agendas. In 2022 alone, the Christian far-right political party Proyecto Dignidad introduced 12 items of legislation that would limit abortions. These proposals mimic the exact policies implemented by anti-choice states in mainland America, such as Texas, Wisconsin, and Missouri—measures to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, prevent minors from accessing the procedure, and mark the status of “alive” to a fetus.
These changes in the views of American states prompt further questions about the islands’ future. Questions such as, “Can Puerto Rico serve as a safe haven for Americans from states that have restricted abortion?” “What impact does the archipelago’s status as a territory, and not a state, have under the growing number of limiting abortion laws going into effect in the region?” Although these questions may be difficult to answer currently, keeping them in mind as we move into an America without Roe may offer a sense of hope to those who have been subject to the implementation of anti-abortion legislation, and may also give us a scope of our country’s future as a people.
For decades, Puerto Rico has been seen as having some of the most progressive abortion laws. Yet, the rise in the tide of anti-choice policy-making—largely influenced by far-right groups and conservative state governments in mainland America—has flipped the script in the territory.
Moving forward, the people of Puerto Rico need to reassess where they stand on abortion. It is undeniable that citizens who believe in choice will go to lengths to make their voices heard—and the same can be said about pro-life advocates. But as a united Puerto Rico in a constantly changing America, it is up to the people to arrive at a consensus about where they stand on this divisive issue.