Women in Dominican Republic protest ban on abortion

By Tamar Rosenfeld
June 21, 2021

NEW YORK — The Dominican Republic is one of four countries in Latin America — along with Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador — where abortion is completely illegal, no exceptions. Only four Latin American countries have legalized abortion: revolutionary Cuba, Uruguay, Guyana and, since December after mass mobilizations, Argentina.

Patricia Encarnacion and Gina Goico from the Butterfly Effect, a group that has organized actions in New York in solidarity with the fight for legal abortion in the Dominican Republic, explained this struggle at a Militant Labor Forum here May 29. They spoke along with Sara Lobman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Manhattan Borough president.

They described how an encampment was set up in front of the National Palace in Santo Domingo for 73 days, calling for adoption of the “three exceptions.” On its last day, May 23, there were internationally coordinated protests, including in New York City.

“The camp was dismantled because it was not sustainable,” Goico explained, but it mobilized “a new generation, including 18- to 20-year-olds, 10 people at a time sleeping in shifts, with lots of teach-ins.” Among those staffing the camp were members of Conamuca (Confederación Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas), a collective of women farmers, said Goico.

Before Luis Abinader was elected Dominican president in July 2020, he campaigned in favor of legalizing abortion when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger, in cases of rape or incest and when the fetus cannot survive, what become known as “the three exceptions.” Encarnacion said Abinader has since backtracked on his promise, and that provoked the nationwide protests.

Encarnacion and Goico said that alongside lack of abortion rights, contraceptives are priced out of range of most working-class women and no sex education is permitted in school in the Dominican Republic.

Goico described the death of 16-year-old Rosaura Almonte in 2012. She was diagnosed with leukemia, and, in the course of medical tests, doctors discovered she was seven weeks pregnant. Though they thought chemotherapy could save her life, it could also harm the fetus, so she was denied treatment.

“In 2020 alone, 208 women died from problems related to pregnancy. There is a cycle of poverty and of child pregnancy,” Encarnacion said. “Between 2015 and 2019, almost 30,000 girls under the age of 16 gave birth, 1,228 were aged 12 or younger.”

“This fight is not over until we guarantee health access and human rights to all Dominicans, especially those who continue to be neglected by the state in working-class neighborhoods, rural areas, and independent of their immigration status,” including Haitian women, Goico said. Haiti and the Dominican Republic occupy the same island, Hispaniola.