• The San Juan Daily Star

Justice Dept. expresses doubts on abortion protections bill

ByJohn McPhaul

The island Justice Department told a House of Representatives committee Wednesday it does not favor a bill before the committee that it says does not clearly enunciate the rights of minors seeking an abortion.

On its third day of public hearings, the Committee on Women’s Affairs chaired by Sen. Migdalia González Arroyo summoned the Justice Department to depose in order to determine its position on Senate Bill 591, which would establish the “Law for the Protection of the Woman in Pregnancy Termination, Procedures and Life Preservation.”

Representing Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández was Leilani Valle Donato, an assistant counsel to the secretary.

“The Department of Justice does not favor the approval of the measure, as it is written. That is why I was emphatic when I asked her the question, if it violates the constitutional rights of minors, to which the lawyer responded yes,” González Arroyo said in an aside with the press. “It is a matter that greatly concerns us and we will be accepting recommendations from the Department of Justice and within a term of two to three weeks the committee can have a complete report on what has happened through hearings to determine whether or not the bill can be approved.”

Valle Donato said that “if the language of Article 12 of the bill is not further detailed, and the four criteria provided by jurisprudence are included in it, the proposed judicial process could substantially hinder access to minors to submit, of their own free will, to a process of termination of pregnancy, which has been recognized in our legal system as a fundamental right.”

She also emphasized that the bill must contain “sufficient safeguards to guarantee that the alternative process in the absence of consent is not burdensome for the minor.” “Otherwise, such a proposal would not pass through the present constitutional filter,” Valle Donato said.

The Justice Department says it does not oppose healthcare legislation that guarantees optimal health services and ensures informed consent in pregnancy termination processes. Therefore, the Justice official suggested that Regulation No. 7654, supra, of the Department of Health be examined and “its provisions be brought into line with the current regulatory order.”

For her part, the author of the measure, Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera thanked the Department of Justice for the recommendations that they outlined in the presentation, stating that “it seems to me … that we are not talking about accommodative rights as you have.”

“The Committee seemed to hear, in other presentations, that they have tried to talk about other cases here,” Riquelme Cabrera said.

González Arroyo, meanwhile, clarified that space will be given to all those who wish to express themselves on the measure and emphasized that “to depose before the Committee must be requested through the members of the Committee.”

Therefore, public hearings on the legislation will continue today.

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