Public hearing on abortion measure slated for next week
By John McPhaul
Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago, Dignity Project Sen. Joanne Rodríguez Veve and New Progressive Party Senate Minority Leader Thomas Rivera Schatz announced on Sunday that Senate Bill (SB) 693, which which would ban abortions in Puerto Rico after 22 weeks of pregnancy, will go through a public hearing process in the island Senate.
“The legal and moral arguments on the issue of abortion, contained in Senate Bill 693, have been thoroughly analyzed and discussed on multiple occasions. This has been discussed endlessly. For some, continuing to discuss this issue in a climate of discord and antagonism among Puerto Ricans does not seem prudent or sensible. Apparently, claims of tolerance and ‘inclusiveness’ for some people only apply if it suits them or supports their preferences,” the political leaders said in a joint statement. “However, in the spirit that everyone can reiterate their opinions and that very important data can be highlighted, we will support holding public hearings. With them, we will cause participation to be broad, large-scale and totally open.”
“Some believe or insinuate that holding public hearings would change the opinion of those who favor or those who oppose the measure,” the statement continued. “Time will tell. But certainly, it gives the impression that the objective of those who oppose it is to delay, agitate and provoke discord of Puerto Ricans against Puerto Ricans.”
“That is not what those of us who support SB 693 want and we hope that the opponents do not [want that] either,” the politicians said. “Our position is clear: we promote respect and value life. We trust that common sense and cordiality will be part of this public discussion.”
SB 693 was approved in committee last week and was included in the calendar of bills to be brought up for a vote during the next ordinary session, which begins today.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico spoke out on Sunday against the Senate measure it said seeks to limit the rights of women to their reproductive health.
“We support the principles of the National Democratic Party recognizing that all women should have access to quality reproductive health services, including their right to decide whether or not they want a pregnancy,” said the president of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, Charlie Rodríguez, in a written statement. “Senate Bill 693 intends to intervene with that right and our opposition is clear and firm.”
Rodríguez said SB 693 “uses language that appeals to the emotions of our citizens, claiming to protect women when in reality it strips women of their ability to decide about their own health, limiting their right to continue or terminate a pregnancy.”
Johanne Vélez García, vice chair of the island Democratic Party, pointed out that the measure is unconstitutional and contains multiple problematic aspects, any of which would be sufficient to oppose it.