The San Juan Daily Star
Justice chief: Abortion bill could violate rights of pregnant girls
By The Star Staff
During Thursday’s continuation of public hearings on Senate Bill (SB) 495 held by the Senate Committee on Life and Family Affairs, chaired by Sen. Joanne Rodríguez Veve, Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández testified that continuing with the measure as drafted, without accepting his agency’s recommendations, could violate the rights of young women in matters of abortion.
“This legislative assembly is presenting a bill to recognize rights in this case to unborn children and on the other hand, to protect particularly the safety and welfare of minors,” Rodríguez Veve said. “As for SB 495, I think it is fair to recognize that far from taking away rights, it seeks to regulate them to ensure the protection of minors. Not to remove, but to recognize through a statute the right to life in the womb.”
SB 495 seeks to establish the law to require the intervention of at least one parent or legal custodian of a minor under 18 years of age at the time of consenting to an abortion in Puerto Rico.
As part of his appearance before the committee, the Justice secretary said that “under an analysis of our Constitution, we understand that continuing with the legislative process of this measure, as drafted and without considering the aspects indicated here, could violate the right to privacy of young Puerto Rican women in matters of abortion.”
At the same time, the Justice chief said in response to questions from Rodríguez Veve that “for me any limitation to a minor seeking an abortion must be very careful and does not have to be fixed in the age, but in the minor to be discerned and the medical criterion, determine if it was the product of a rape. If you in the Legislature want to put a limitation it would be 16 years, but I would leave it as it is.”
In this regard, Emanuelli Hernández indicated that it should be considered that in the island legal system the minimum age for a minor to legally consent to sexual relations is 16 years. He noted that the provisions of the legislation impose a regulation on all children under 18 years of age.
“In any case, the regulation proposed in SB 495 must be tempered to the age of consent already recognized in Puerto Rico,” Emanuelli Hernández said.
In addition, the Justice secretary pointed out that minors do not have the option to choose the judicial procedure from the beginning. According to Article 7, one of the elements that the minor has to prove to the Court is that “none of the persons whose consent is to be obtained is available or, if available, refuses to give consent.”
“Therefore, in order to avoid a situation of greater vulnerability, the alternative could be granted that, within the regulatory framework provided in the measure, she is allowed to choose to appeal to the court without having to first require the consent of one of her parents,” Emanuelli Hernández said as part of his recommendations on the measure.