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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Dominican Republic court has struck down a law that sought to allow abortion in the country.
The Constitutional Court issued the ruling Wednesday overturning reforms to the penal code and upholding current pro-life law.
The amendment, which would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or if the mother's life is at risk, was originally adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber of the Dominican Congress, last December and was actively promulgated by Dominican president Danilo Medina.
The initial push for change came in the wake of a proposed amendment affirming "the right to life is inviolable from conception until death." The resolution passed in 2009 in the Dominican National Assembly despite much international pressure from abortion advocates, with a vote of 128 in favor to 32 opposed.
The ratification of the amendment was met with intense criticism from pro-abortion organizations, with United Nations Program for Human Development coordinator Miguel Ceara Hatton claiming the pro-life legislation encourages illicit abortions and disregards women's rights.
Hatton also accused the Catholic Church, which actively supported the pro-life amendment, of meddling in the affairs of the country, claiming the Church "has become a source and a motor for social exclusion in the Dominican Republic. The dogma is placed ahead of the needs of the population, health, housing and better living conditions."
The debate was resurrected last year when President Danilo Medina suggested to the Dominican congress reforms to the law that would permit circumstantial abortions; the amendments were scheduled to take effect late this December until it was nullified by Wednesday's ruling.
The pro-life court ruling came as the result of petitioning by several pro-life organizations, which argued the law directly violates the constitution.
Several organizations have protested the court ruling, including Amnesty International, with American chapter director Erika Guevara Rosas stating the decision "takes women's and girls' human rights back to the 19th century."
"Its impact will be catastrophic for women and girls in the Dominican Republic who will continue to be criminalized, stigmatized and forced to seek out unsafe abortions because they are denied access to safe and legal medical treatment," she said.
Amnesty International and several other groups have officially filed amicus curiae briefs to the court, citing a resolution from the U.N. Committee Against Torture that claims in certain circumstances "denial of access to abortion services can lead to physical or mental suffering that amounts to torture or ill treatment."
The Constitutional Court is expected to issue a thorough explanation for its ruling, which cannot be appealed, within the coming days.
The Dominican Republic has historically been a Roman Catholic country, with a 2014 study asserting that 57 percent of the nation's citizens profess to be Catholic.