The Dominican Republic is holding fast to its pro-life principles after its highest court blocked a new law Wednesday that would have legalized abortions.
The court affirmed that the small Caribbean nation will continue to protect unborn babies from the moment of conception in all cases, Reuters reports.
Last year, the country’s congress and President Danilo Medina approved amendments their criminal code to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity or danger to the woman’s life, the report states.
However, several pro-life and religious groups filed a complaint against the law, saying it violated the country’s constitution. Happy Marriage, one of the groups, said the constitution states the right to life begins when a couple conceive, according to the Associated Press.
The high court agreed that the amendments were unconstitutional in its Wednesday ruling, just a few weeks before the abortion expansion was set to take effect, according to reports.
The Dominican Republic has been debating whether to legalize abortion for many years. In 2009, despite pressure from United Nations agencies and abortion advocates to legalize abortion, the country’s lawmakers instead approved a pro-life constitutional change. The amendment states that “the right to life is inviolable from conception until death.” It passed with 128 in favor and 32 opposed.
While the 2009 measure was widely supported by Dominican parliamentarians, it met with staunch opposition from international abortion proponents and even UN agencies, which are officially neutral on abortion.
The new court ruling also faces criticism from pro-abortion groups that claim it will put women’s lives at risk.
“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,” Erika Guevara, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
Abortion advocates estimate more than 90,000 unsafe abortions occur in the country each year, according to Reuters; but pro-life advocates have debunked multiple pro-abortion studies about unsafe abortions and found that abortion advocates tend to vastly inflate the numbers.
Central and South American countries are very pro-life, though they have witnessed a growing push from abortion advocates to legalize abortion. Along with the Dominican Republic, Chile, El Salvador, Suriname, Honduras and Nicaragua protect unborn babies by banning abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
A recent Pew Research Survey found that an overwhelming majority of Latin Americans believe abortion should be illegal, including 91 percent of those polled in the Dominican Republic, LifeNews reported previously.