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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Sen. Rafael Bernabe defends the right to abortion

Sen. Rafael Bernabe of the Citizen Victory Movement

By John McPhaul

Sen. Rafael Bernabe of the Citizen Victory Movement reacted to the statements of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, in the sense that he wants to avoid “extreme positions” on the issue of abortion.

Abortion is the subject of several pieces of legislation that are currently under consideration in the House of Representatives.

Bernabe explained that, “from a legal point of view, there is a clear way to ‘avoid extremes,’ as the governor says: you don’t have to change anything about our Current legal and juridical system. In Puerto Rico, the right to abortion has been recognized for decades to protect the life and health, physical or mental, of women. That is the current situation,” Bernabe stressed. “It’s democratic. It’s healthy. No reason to change it. It is a democratic provision, because it recognizes the right of every woman to decide, to control her body and her life. It is healthy because it has prevented and prevents women from having to resort to clandestine abortions. It has saved the lives of thousands of women. The governor must veto any measure that seeks to limit that right.”

The senator emphasized that “it is not true that the clinics that perform this procedure are ‘free.’ They are highly regulated and supervised by the Department of Health. The governor may be tempted to give way to bills that seek to limit the law, but in this case there is no reason to do so. For example, one of the bills seeks to ban abortion once a fetus supposedly becomes viable, misnamed ‘fetal heartbeat’. This supposed ‘beat’ is not such, it occurs when there is not even a heart that can beat. On the other hand, the desire to limit ‘late’ abortion tries to fix a problem that does not exist: very few abortions occur beyond 22 weeks of gestation. The measures have been rejected by all organizations of gynecologists and obstetricians, by the College of Physicians and members of medical schools. Is the executive going to ignore all this? It would be quite a position. Extreme. Current provisions allow each pregnancy to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with medical criteria, without undue intervention of other criteria. That’s how it is now and that’s how it should remain.”

The professor also stressed that it was regrettable that the governor, because he wanted to be please everyone, was passing on some limitation to the right to abortion.

“That It is not avoiding extremes,” he warned, “that is giving in to the extremist sector that insists on denying women’s right to decide. They are not trying to solve a problem, but to take away a right. Note that the best way to avoid late-term abortions is that early abortion is easily accessible, but the same groups that oppose late-term abortion, block clinics and harass women, so that they cannot exercise their right, regardless of the stage of gestation.”

Barnabe clarified that “we recognize the right of all people. We do not want to impose criteria on anyone. Women who refuse abortion will not be performed that procedure. It is their right. We respect that. But admittedly, not all women think that way. And everyone should have the right to decide, according to their criteria and their situation. That’s what it’s all about, the personal autonomy of every woman.”

Bernabe concluded by noting that, “in any case, it is necessary to ensure that all women can exercise this right, beyond legal recognition. At present, many cannot exercise their right because they cannot afford it or because the clinics are located only in the metropolitan area. That is why we have introduced legislation to strengthen the right recognized by law, establishing abortion as an essential health service. That’s the measure that the legislature should give way to and that the governor should sign.”

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