Puerto Rican Senate passes bill banning abortion after 22 weeks

Baby_Hands Credit: Unsplash

On June 22, the Puerto Rican Senate passed Bill 693, which bans abortion on the island after 22 weeks, with several exceptions.

"Passed! Senate Bill 693 has just been approved with 16 votes in favor, nine against, one abstention, and one absent,” Sen. Joanne Rodríguez Veve, president of the Puerto Rican Senate’s Committee on Life and Family Affairs, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency.

Rodríguez was one of the main authors of the bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives. If passed there, it will go to the desk of the governor of Puerto Rico for his signature. 

The text of the legislation’s Article 2 states that “the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico declares that a licensed medical professional will not carry out a termination of pregnancy where the one conceived is in the gestational stage of viability, as defined in this law.”

Since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in 1973, was still in effect the day the bill was passed, a situation that has now changed with the overturning of Roe on June 24. Abortion has been legal on the island throughout pregnancy.

In her June 22 speech before the Senate, the senator said that as a woman she identifies “with the vast majority of Puerto Rican women who, if they could, would be here, in front of this microphone, as the voice of babies in the womb, over five and a half months in gestation, which the Senate Bill 693 wants to protect.”

The senator stressed that although she believes "in the defense of life from conception," she supports Bill 693 because "it recognizes that the right to privacy of women is not absolute, but rather finds limits compared to other rights, such as the right to life expressly recognized in our Constitution.”

After noting that in some places in Puerto Rico babies of up to 24 weeks' gestation are aborted, Rodríguez said that the bill contains several exceptions in which an abortion could be obtained: if the life of mother is in danger; if the baby has a severe disability; if a fetal anomaly “incompatible” with life is diagnosed; or if the doctor determines that the conceived child of 22 weeks or more "is not viable, that is, that it could not survive outside the womb."

After noting that people born at 22, 23, 24, and 27 weeks were present during the debate, the senator stressed that she was speaking as a "woman rooted in the moral fiber of this people who sows life in the earth and protects life in the womb. Today I speak as a woman who mourns death and celebrates life.”

“Democracy must never be at the service of death. And today it is up to us, through the democratic exercise of the vote, but above all, from the breadth of our hearts, to defend the lives of those who cannot do it for themselves,” she concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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