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Puerto Rico Abortion Debate Follows US Supreme Court Reversal of Roe : NPR

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

Alejandro Granadillo/NurPhoto/Getty Images


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Alejandro Granadillo/NurPhoto/Getty Images

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

Alejandro Granadillo/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The day after the Supreme Court struck down roe v. calfa representative in the Puerto Rican legislature presented a invoice punishing “the crime of abortion” with 99 years in prison.

The bill was withdrawn the same day it was introduced, but it represents a renewed interest in greatly restricting abortion in Puerto Rico after the Supreme Court threw out its 1973 decision. roe v. calf decision that protected the right to abortion.

A new attempt to limit abortion

abortion in any point of 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 roe is empowering conservative lawmakers to try new limits on abortion rights.

although 77% of Puerto Ricans living on the island believe abortion should be mostly illegal, “abortion wasn’t really a major issue on the legislative agenda until the last four years,” said Yanira Reyes, co-founder of the nonprofit profit Inter-Women Puerto Rico. . “It has become a topic of conversation.”

In June, five days before roerevocation, the Senate of Puerto Rico approved a invoice prohibit abortion after 22 weeks of gestation. The island’s House of Representatives has not yet voted on the bill. Senator Joanne Rodríguez Veve, a member of the Project Dignity party, sponsored the legislation.

“I believe in the defense of life from conception. However, today I am willing to favor Senate Bill 693,” said Rodríguez Veve, speaking on the Senate floor during debate on the bill. “A bill that recognizes that the right to privacy of women is not absolute, but finds limits compared to other rights, such as the right to life expressly recognized in our constitution.”

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

“Contrary to what many people think, even in Puerto Rico, abortion is legal,” said Verónica Colón Rosario, executive director of the Puerto Rico Women’s Foundation. “With this conversation about roe v. calfMany people think that this right has been lost in Puerto Rico, and that is the narrative that the pro-lifers want to maintain. But it’s still 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 those clinics are in San Juan, the capital.

“In Puerto Rico there are very few medical appointments available, and this includes gynecological appointments in private practices,” says Frances Collazo Cáceres, an abortion consultant and advocate for the family planning clinic Profamilias. “A lot of times, 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 do not receive public funding. Also, almost half of the population of puerto rico receives Medicaid, which covers only a non-hormonal IUD.

“[Clinics] they have almost no staff because there is no funding,” Colón said. “If [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 after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Her clinic, which provides abortions up to 24 weeks gestation, also offers other reproductive health services, but she said she feels the impact of lack of funding.

“Here in Puerto Rico, contraception is very difficult to obtain. People have to have health insurance, private health insurance, to obtain long-acting contraceptives, reversible contraceptives and birth control pills free of charge,” said Vale Moreno. “The other people who are like 60% of the population that I [treat], they are not able to achieve any of that. So we have to do a lot of juggling to be able to prescribe contraceptives.”

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

Despite legislative attempts to limit it, abortion remains legal on the island for now. And while abortion rights weren’t much of a debate before the reversal of roethe reversal of the Supreme Court could lead to a new political prioritization of the issue.

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

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