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Activists Push for Abortion Legalization in the Dominican Republic, Celebrities Join the Cause

The Dominican Republic is facing a reproductive health crisis affecting the lives of hundreds of women and teens.

The Caribbean country has a total abortion ban, making the procedure illegal under all circumstances, including rape and incest. Under the law, abortions are prohibited even in cases of saving a woman’s life or when the fetus is unviable.

For hundreds of women and young girls, the restrictive laws have resulted in untimely yet preventable deaths. Recently, a 15-year-old girl who her grandfather and father sexually assaulted was forced to carry out her pregnancy. According to El Diario Libre, the teen faced sexual abuse since she was 10. But she is not the only one.

In 2012, 16-year-old Rosaura was denied an abortion at four weeks while undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, resulting in her death. In late February, Adilka Feliz died after being denied a life-saving abortion for an unviable pregnancy. She was Senator Yvan Lorenzo’s right hand.

“Adilka died due to a legislative malpractice,” the Coalition for the Rights and Life of Women in the Dominican Republic expressed in a statement. “All maternal deaths are painful, but those that can be prevented with the timely interruption of a pregnancy are particularly shattering, as we can see with Adilka Feliz’s case.”

In an exclusive interview with Modern Muze, Dominican activist Natalia Mármol shares the need for President Luis Abinader to step up during this crisis, what organizations on the island are doing to help improve conditions for women and girls, and how to diminish misinformation on abortion.

Dominican Republic has sustained the same abortion laws since 1884 despite thousands of maternal deaths

According to The Guardian, the Dominican Republic’s abortion law has been in place since 1884. Women face up to two years in prison for undergoing illegal abortions, and doctors face five to 20 years for performing one.

In a 2018 report, “Es tu decisión, es tu vida: La criminalización total del aborto en la República Dominicana”, Human Rights Watch documented the desperate need for more flexible abortion laws on the island. The report documented dozens of cases where women and girls were left to die, resorted to clandestine abortions, or gave birth.

“Women and girls in the Dominican Republic have always defied prohibition but have seen themselves forced to put their lives and health at risk to interrupt pregnancies clandestinely,” Margaret Wurth, author of the report and senior investigator for Women’s Rights at Human Rights Watch, stated. “Congress should decriminalize abortion and make sure that women and girls have access to safe and legal abortions, carried out by doctors equipped to do so, instead of letting them resort to clandestine and insecure methods.”

3 Causales
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To date, activists such as Mármol continue working toward decriminalization of abortion and safer standards for women.

“In the Dominican Republic, abortion is completely illegal. Providing abortion care could lead to criminalization,” she says. “That’s why several organizations and collectives are working on overcoming the total abortion ban, like Cipaf and the Coalition for the Life and Health of Women.”

Additionally, groups like Conamuca, Aquelarre, and Tertulia del Sur are fostering communities, offering information, and empowering women and girls with the tools to achieve autonomy and control their lives.

Activists suggest normalizing the conversation around abortion to soften the legislative landscape

The country’s conservative majority adheres to the prohibitions for religious reasons, taboos, and fear of legal repercussions. According to Mármol, part of normalizing the conversation around abortion comes with speaking out about it.

“Speak your truth and break the silence against hate speech that seeks to silence diverse opinions,” she tells Modern Muze. “In the face of stigma, our voices are powerful tools for creating a better future. Break the silence, break the stigma, and build bridges by understanding others’ perspectives.”

“Achieving gender equality and securing rights is an ongoing, everyday task.”


Adding, “Engage in difficult conversations with empathy, recognizing the shared humanity in everyone. Advocate for common values threatened by prohibitionist approaches, emphasizing the goal of preventing unjust suffering.”

Mármol also encourages cultivating a “culture of solidarity” among friends and activists. While “Emphasizing mental health, empathy, and boundaries to prevent burnout.”

Another critical note she claims is to “Acknowledge and address privilege, recognizing its societal impact and aim for a supportive and inclusive environment on the path to securing our rights.”

Celebrities like Leslie Grace and Jillian Mercado are calling on Abinader to legalize abortion under “las tres causales”

Dominican artists such as Leslie Grace, Laura Gomez, Jillian Mercado and Leith Ashley are among many who are standing up to the full abortion ban. They are calling for the three exceptions to be allowed.

The three exceptions refer to cases in which the pregnancy represents a risk to the woman’s life, is the result of rape or incest, or the fetus is unviable outside the uterus.

The Dominican Republic is among the only four countries in Latin America where abortion continues to be prohibited entirely. Others include El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Now more than ever, activism is key to legalization.

“We might not see it, but day-to-day conversations can hold significant power,” Mármol says. “Don’t be afraid to be the one who starts the uncomfortable conversations at family dinners, the office, or the beauty salon. Use your social platforms to raise awareness and invite others to join the conversation. Achieving gender equality and securing rights is an ongoing, everyday task.”