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Puerto Rico abortion debate follows U.S. Supreme Court overruling Roe : NPR


Abortion rights protesters demonstrate in San Juan, Puerto Rico in July.

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Puerto Rico abortion debate follows U.S. Supreme Court overruling Roe : NPR

Abortion rights protesters demonstrate in San Juan, Puerto Rico in July.

Alejandro Granadillo/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wadea representative of the Puerto Rican legislature introduced a bill punishing “the crime of abortion” with 99 years in prison.

The bill was withdrawn the same day it was introduced, but it represents renewed interest in dramatically restricting abortion in Puerto Rico after the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling. Roe vs. Wade decision that protected the right to abortion.

A new attempt to limit abortion

Abortion at any time during pregnancy is currently legal in Puerto Rico, making the island, on paper, one of the most accessible locations in the Western Hemisphere for the procedure. But the fall of deer empowers conservative lawmakers to attempt new limits on the right to abortion.

Even though 77% of Puerto Ricans living on the island think abortion should be mostly illegal, “abortion wasn’t really a major item on the legislative agenda until the last four years,” he said. said Yanira Reyes, co-founder of the women’s rights association Inter -Mujeres Puerto Rico. “It’s been converted into a talking point.”

In June, five days before deer, Puerto Rico’s Senate passed a bill banning abortion after 22 weeks of gestation. The island’s House of Representatives has yet to vote on the bill. Senator Joanne Rodríguez Veve, a member of the Project Dignity party, sponsored the bill.

“I believe in defending life from conception. However, today I am prepared to favor Senate Bill 693,” said Rodríguez Veve, speaking in the Senate during the debate on the bill. law. “A bill that recognizes that a woman’s right to privacy is not absolute, but finds limits in the face of other rights, such as the right to life expressly recognized in our constitution.

Founded in 2019, Project Dignity followed the lead of anti-abortion groups in the Americas, introducing anti-abortion measures such as “fetal heartbeat” bills. During the current legislative session, the only senator and representative of the party proposed 10 bills limiting the right to abortion.

“Contrary to what many people think, including people in Puerto Rico, abortion is legal,” said Verónica Colón Rosario, executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Puerto Rico. “With this conversation about Roe vs. Wade, many people believe that in Puerto Rico this right has been lost, and this is the narrative that pro-lifers want to maintain. But it continues to be legal.”

Access to abortion in Puerto Rico is limited

There are only four abortion clinics in Puerto Rico to serve more than 3.2 million people. Three of these clinics are in San Juan, the capital.

“In Puerto Rico, there are very few medical appointments available, and that includes gynecological appointments in private practices,” says Frances Collazo Cáceres, abortion and advocacy counselor at the Profamilias family planning clinic. “Often patients have to wait three or four months for an appointment with a doctor.”

Cost is also a barrier to accessing reproductive care, as abortion clinics on the island receive no public funding. Additionally, nearly half of Puerto Rico’s population receives Medicaid, which only covers one non-hormonal IUD.

“[Clinics] have almost no staff because there is no funding,” Colón said. ” Whether [abortion in] the United States is underfunded, Puerto Rico is the worst case scenario. They are suffocating with their work.”

Obstetrician and gynecologist Yarí Vale Moreno runs the only clinic on the island that offers abortions beyond 14 weeks of pregnancy. Her clinic, which offers abortions up to 24 weeks gestation, also offers other reproductive health services, but she says she is feeling the impact of the lack of funding.

“Here in Puerto Rico, contraception is really hard to get. People have to have health insurance, private health insurance, to get long-acting reversible contraception and birth control pills for free,” Vale Moreno said. “Other people who are about 60% of the population that I [treat], they are not able to get all that. So you have to juggle a lot to be able to prescribe them contraceptives. »

“It’s always a problem of access [for abortion] because people, unless they know it or tell a friend, it’s very hard for you to say, “Oh, I need an abortion professional.” Where can I find it?’ ” Vale Moreno said. “And they say, ‘Oh, my doctor does it, you know,’ and it’s not considered positive. So for a lot of people, it’s silence.”

Despite legislative attempts to limit it, abortion remains legal on the island for the time being. And while abortion rights weren’t a big topic of debate before the overthrow of deerthe reversal of the Supreme Court could lead to a new political prioritization of the issue.

“We’ll have to see now what happens. It could be a double-edged sword,” Reyes said. “In Puerto Rico, for people who didn’t have abortion as an important point in their lives, they never thought about it much. Now they are starting to take a stand.”

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