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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Bill seeks to protect children when women are accused and/or convicted of crimes when pregnant

Sen. José Vargas Vidot

By The Star Staff

In order to protect those accused of crimes during pregnancy and safeguard the maternal relationship with the child after childbirth, Sens. José “Chaco” Vargas Vidot, Thomas Rivera Schatz and Joanne Rodríguez Veve filed Senate Bill 1183 on Tuesday.

“With this measure, we seek to protect the mother in three stages: bail, sentence, and administrative correction, with the purpose of protecting the pregnancy and the bond of mother and child for a period of at least three years,” Vargas Vidot said. “What we want to safeguard is that this child goes through a process with the mother until the age of three, recognizing that, despite the circumstances, the child deserves to create that bond with its mother.”

Rodríguez Veve, the spokesperson for Dignity Project, recognized the importance of striking a balance between fulfilling one’s debt to society and protecting the child, something the bill intends to accomplish.

“Without prejudice to the responsibility of a convicted mother to fulfill her debt to society, this measure adopts the necessary mechanisms to mitigate the damage to which a baby would be exposed as a result of an order of imprisonment of the mother,” she said. “Through this bill we seek that the mother faces the rigor of our penal system, while guaranteeing the best welfare of the innocent child during the first months of life, a vital time for its healthy development.”

Currently, Article 70 of the Penal Code of Puerto Rico (Deferral of the Execution of the Sentence) grants the court the power to defer a sentence “when a woman in a state of pregnancy or less than six months has elapsed since delivery.” With the approval of the measure, instead of being left to the court’s discretion, the deferment would be automatic.

“It is clear that prison and the restrictions of alternative programs are not the right places for, nor do they meet the needs of, a pregnant woman and her child,” reads the bill’s preamble.

“Although the responsibility of the state is to ensure faithful compliance with the rules of social coexistence, it is inescapable to recognize that the state also has a duty to protect the life, security and privacy of people.”

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