Governor to wait for House version of abortion bill
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Wednesday that he will wait to see how the island House of Representatives will work with Senate Bill 693, which limits abortion in Puerto Rico, before making a decision on how he will treat the matter.
“Now we have to see what the House does with the bill because in the Senate, from what I have seen, it underwent amendments. It was modified. We are no longer talking about the same bill as it originated. We have to see what happens in the House. I will be monitoring the matter,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “If the heads of the concerned agencies, which are Justice and Health, are going to be available if this goes to some public hearing process and they request [depositions], then they will comment, based on the bill as approved by the Senate.”
“They had commented before the bill was amended in the Senate; now if the House decides to take the matter to public hearings, they will be available,” he added. “In due course, I am going to ask the heads of the agencies for advice, that is, the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of Health, among others, and based on that advice and with the Fortaleza team, I will make my decision.”
Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López pointed out that he has concerns about the legislation.
“Certainly we have our concerns; I have not yet seen the approved bill [in the Senate] and I let myself be informed by what the gynecologists of the University Hospital say and they have some concerns that I brought to the hearings,” the Health chief told the press. “More than 94 percent of abortions in Puerto Rico occur before 14 weeks. There are only less than one percent of abortions that occur at 22 weeks, but certainly, I would have to see the bill to see if in what specific cases it could be done, leave that door open to see if the law contemplates that. I am not a gynecologist and I let myself be informed by obstetricians and the experiences they have had and based on statistics.”
On Tuesday night, the Senate in a voice vote approved Bill 693, which would limit abortion in Puerto Rico from 22 weeks of gestation. The measure was co-authored by Sens. Joanne Rodríguez Véve, José Luis Dalmau Santiago, Thomas Rivera Schatz, Albert Torres, Ramón Ruiz Nieves and Keren Riquelme Cabrera. The bill was subsequently approved by roll call with 16 votes in favor, nine against and one vote abstained.
The legislation also details that “every Hospital, Pregnancy Termination Center, licensed medical professional or health service center is required to submit to the Department of Health the following information on a monthly basis related to any termination of pregnancy carried out since 22 weeks for purposes of ensuring compliance with this Law and statistical purposes.”
The bill was approved in the Life and Family Committee chaired by Rodríguez Veve, but it was again put to public hearings due to the multiple controversies generated after it was approved in committee without that legislative procedure.
Dalmau Santiago, the Senate president, entered into a controversy within the ranks of the Popular Democratic Party after referring to women who have an abortion as murderers.