SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Dominican President Danilo Medina has urged legislators to decriminalize abortions if a woman's life is at risk or in cases of rape, incest or fetus malformation.
Medina expressed his opinions in a letter sent late Friday to the leader of the Chamber of Deputies as he explained his reasons for vetoing a measure that would double prison sentences in abortion cases.
He did not oppose the stiffer penalties, but said the measure should spell out conditions when abortions can be allowed. He said allowing women to abort in those cases is "most fair, balanced and in accordance with the spirit of protecting rights."
The bill has been debated for nearly two decades in a staunchly Roman Catholic country where abortion is illegal in all cases and where women and medical professionals can face at least five years in prison if found guilty. The bill would have allowed abortions in what it called only a "state of necessity" without providing details or further guidance.
Health care professionals and human rights activists praised Medina's move.
"It's an act of courage that I value and appreciate as a woman," said Yeni Berenice Reynoso, a prosecutor in the capital of Santo Domingo.
As a result of Medina's veto, legislators will resume their debate on the bill but face no deadline to approve an amended version. The debate legally could stretch over a year. If no agreement is reached during that time, the process would begin anew.
In September 2009, legislators strengthened the ban on abortion with a constitutional amendment declaring that "the right to life is inviolable from conception until death."