Health chief warns of social problems as a result of proposed abortion legislation
By John McPhaul
Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said in a public hearing on Senate Bill 693, which would regulate or limit abortion in Puerto Rico, that he has no problem doing so, but he emphasized the social problems that the legislation could cause.
“Senator, I want this to be very clear. In other words, if the Legislative Assembly wants to regulate this, I have no problem. I would tell them right now, de facto, regulate it,” Mellado López said in public hearings held last Friday.
“But they have to keep two things in mind: number one, what is happening in Puerto Rico, and number two, if they throw a 22-week [gestation period] limit in here, a lot of things are going to happen. And also, number three, on a social level, which is very important, they still haven’t explained and I’ve been a doctor for 23 years, and I’ve seen girls who come to the emergency room who bled to death because they take misoprostol to abort them at home and they don’t tell their parents,” the Health secretary said. “These are considerations that must be taken into account because it happens at a social level and here there are 12- and 13-year-old girls with children already.”
Regarding the bill, Mellado López recommended that “the bill must contemplate striking a balance between the interest of the state and the maintenance of the best medical practice, which is in the protection of the fetus but also in the protection that helps women.”
“Therefore, finally, considering the purpose contained in the bill, we understand that the matters that are proposed to be legislated are adequately addressed,” he said.
Citizen Victory Movement (MVC) Sen. Ana Irma Rivera Lassén alleged meanwhile during the hearing that the doctors who perform the legal practice of abortion in Puerto Rico are being monitored.
“I am concerned that the image is presented of a doctor who, as you [Mellado López] rightly said, is conducting a practice that is legal in Puerto Rico. … I know about keeping files on people, which is persecution. I was a victim of monitoring in Puerto Rico. I know monitoring when I see it and here is medical monitoring, I tell you doctor. I have to say for the record and for all the people who are watching this to know, that if something happens to Dr. Yari Vale …”
At that pointRivera Lassén was interrupted by Sen. Joanne Rodríguez Veve, who chairs the Life and Family Committee in the upper chamber.
“A point of order,” Rodríguez Veve said.
“Senator, I have the right to say what I say because it was something that happened here,” Rivera Lassén responded.
Mellado López also pointed out that “the bill speaks of 22 weeks, without specifying the clinical or scientific criteria that would support that cut-off point.”
“It is pertinent to highlight in relation to medical criteria and best medical practices that both abortion and the medical profession are matters already regulated in Puerto Rico,” he said, adding that “most abortions in Puerto Rico are performed up to 14 weeks, which occurs in the pre-viability stage of the fetus.”