The San Juan Daily Star
Legislators refer abortion clinics to agencies for failing to report alleged sexual abuse
By The Star Staff
Anti-abortion lawmakers Sen. Joanne Rodríguez Veve and Rep. Lisie Burgos Muñiz referred island abortion clinics to the Department of Justice and the Family Department on Thursday for failing to report possible sexual abuse of minors who underwent abortions.
The Dignity Project (Proyecto Dignidad) lawmakers said their allegations are supported by testimonial and documentary evidence gathered by the Senate Life and Family Matters Committee. They said the clinics should have reported the minors under the age of 15 primarily because they could not legally have consented to having sex and therefore were victims of sexual assault.
“The facts set forth in the aforementioned constitute evidence that 118 minors under the age of 15 … underwent pregnancy terminations in private abortion clinics in Puerto Rico in the last five years,” the lawmakers said. “On their face, the state of pregnancy of these minors constitutes, at least, suspicion of sexual assault and could culminate in the determination of the commission of the crime of sexual assault.”
“The clinics, and the health professionals who work there, could have committed violations of Articles 3(x), 3(bb), 21 and 23 of the Safety, Welfare and Protection of Minors Law, Law 246-2011, as amended, in force at the time these [potential violations] occurred,” Rodríguez Veve stated.
Article 130 of the Puerto Rico Penal Code provides in a general manner the elements of the crime of sexual assault, which include sexual intercourse with a minor who has not reached 16 years of age. The crime prescribes at 20 years of age but when the victim is under 18 years of age, and the defendant is over 18 years of age at the time of the facts, the crime does not prescribe or reach a statute of limitations.
From the facts above, the lawmakers said, the indisputable evidence emerges that in the last five years abortion clinics in Puerto Rico have carried out pregnancy termination procedures on 118 minors 15 years of age or younger.
Only one clinic (IELLA/Profamilia) referred four cases of rape, or suspected rape, in children under 18 years of age to the Family Department’s Abuse Hotline and to the Center for Help for Victims of Rape. From the information provided by this clinic, it can be deduced that one of these four cases is a minor of 16 years of age or older, the legislators said. However, the clinic does not specify the age of the minors of the other three referred cases, they said.
Meanwhile, the Darlington Medical Associates clinic indicated that they do not refer cases of rape, or suspicion of it, to the Family Department, but refer them through a formal written referral addressed to the University Hospital where the minor is taken.
The Women’s Medical Pavilion and Family Planning Clinics carried out 17 and 82 abortions, respectively, on children under 15 years of age or younger, between 2018 and 2022, and did not refer those cases to the Family Department or the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, the lawmakers said.
The clinics, when dealing with those 118 cases of children under 15 years of age or less, they said, were faced with a reliable fact that demonstrates, at least, suspicion that a sexual assault was committed under Article 130 of the Penal Code of Puerto Rico, and suspicion of sexual abuse under Article 3(b) of Law 246-2011.
Notwithstanding, the Family Department testified during a public hearing on May 9 that between 2018 and 2022, it did not receive any referral from the abortion clinics in Puerto Rico for cases of rape, or suspected rape, in the cases of minors who had gone to the clinics for abortions, the lawmakers said. That includes cases of minors 15 years of age or younger, who had an abortion at those clinics, they said.
“Act 246-2011, in its Article 21, imposes an obligation on every person to immediately inform the Family Department through the Department’s Abuse Hotline, the Puerto Rico Police or the Department’s Local Office, those cases where there is or is suspected that there is a situation of abuse toward a minor or in which there is a risk that a minor may be a victim of such a situation,” the legislators said.