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Force us to give birth


In recent days, legislative hearings have resumed on five legislative bills related to the right to abortion. Four of these bills (PS693, PC1084, PC1419 and PC715) seek to limit the right of women and pregnant people to make decisions about their bodies. In addition, they aim to force pregnancies against their will even in situations such as sexual assault, incest, developmental problems or health conditions of the fetus or physical or mental health of the pregnant person.


One of the arguments put forward to justify this gross violation of our rights to dignity, privacy, freedom and equality is the low birth rate and population ageing. Under arguments like this, the Puerto Rico House of Representatives proposes amending the Penal Code with House Bill 715, to categorize as double murder when the murdered woman is pregnant, or murder when the fetus dies as a result of an assault on the pregnant person. These provisions are already covered by the Criminal Code in force in articles 66 and 100. So if the conduct to be prevented is already covered by the code, what is the purpose of this project?


The legislative intention is clear: to pave the way for the legal protection of fetuses at the expense of the autonomy of women and pregnant persons. On this, the general remarks of House Bill 715 state that: "And among the reasons for this aging is the alarming birth rate. This can only be reversed with public policies, also in the criminal sphere, to protect and promote a new social mentality about life that frees us from the legal reductionism of nasciturus in the field of termination of pregnancy and opens the legitimate horizon of the State in the promotion of unborn life".


Therefore, given the problem of low population, the alternative presented by the project is to recognize the rights of the fetus as a separate subject from the body of the pregnant person. That is, restrict the autonomy of women and people with the capacity to gestate to make decisions about their reproduction. Such measures reveal a tendency to protect the life of the fetus over the life of women. It tries to justify government intervention in decisions as intimate as giving birth or not giving birth in order to increase the birth rate against the will and autonomy of women as if our courage were reduced to mere incubators.


If we want to address the low population in Puerto Rico, if we want to prevent the country from being emptied, we must address the reasons that cause people to leave or decide not to reproduce. Let’s find alternatives so that people have decent housing. That children have access to education, that schools are no longer closed and that teachers are paid fairly. Let us ensure that people have access to health services that include mental, reproductive and preventive health. Let us look for measures to address poverty and inequality. Let us stop the displacement of our poor and young people because of the handing over of our lands and properties to rich and foreign private hands. That people have a fair wage so that they can meet their basic needs and do not have to leave the country. Let us ensure that people have access to essential things like water, electricity, food.


The alternative cannot be to force women to give birth. The alternative must be to ensure that everyone can have a decent life. This is how life is protected.

 

This is a translation of the original Op-Ed published in Spanish in El Nuevo Día, October 7, 2022: https://www.elnuevodia.com/opinion/punto-de-vista/obligarnos-a-parir/


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