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Dominican Republic high court restores total abortion ban

[JURIST] A Dominican court on Wednesday blocked a new law that would have decriminalized abortion if a pregnant woman's life was at risk, thus reinstating a total ban on abortion within the country. The Constitutional Tribunal's ruling, which upholds a law from 1884, cannot be appealed [Reuters report]. The new law had been scheduled to go into effect on December 27. Human rights groups have spoken out against the ruling, with Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] stating [AI report] that the Dominican Republic has "taken a drastic step backwards for women's human rights" and "takes women's and girls' human rights back to the 19th century." Spokeswoman for local rights group the Women and Health Collective Sergia Galvan [official Twitter] said that the ruling "continues to place Dominican women, even those who long to be mothers, in a dilemma—to die or go to jail—when they require health services, such as abortion." Happy Marriage, one of the groups that filed the complaint against the new law, said that it violated the country's constitution [text, PDF], which states that the right to life begins at conception. The Tribunal is expected to issue a statement on the ruling within days.

Abortion remains a controversial topic internationally. In November Amnesty International reported [JURIST report] that El Salvador's complete ban on abortion negatively impacts not only women and girls, but also their families. Also that month, a High Court in Belfast ruled [JURIST report] that Northern Ireland's abortion laws, which only allow abortion when the mother faces the risk of death or serious injury, is a violation of human rights. Earlier that month the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a Wisconsin abortion law requiring providers to have admitting privileges is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. In May a group of UN human rights experts said that the Government of Paraguay had failed [JURIST report] in its responsibility to act with due diligence towards a 10 year old rape victim who became pregnant but was not given treatment, including abortion, that could have preserved her health. In March Chilean lawmakers considered [JURIST report] a bill to legalize abortions under certain circumstances.

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