(HLI – Puerto Rico) Puerto Rico’s pro-abortionists were taken by surprise in May with the filing of Senate legislative bill 950 titled, “Law for the Protection of Women and Preservation of Life,” its purpose to set limits to reduce abortion access in the country. Given that Puerto Rico is a United States territory, the practice of abortion is permitted during all nine months of pregnancy, as mandated by the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v Wade.
Senator Nayda Venegas-Brown, the author of the legislative bill, requested pregnant women be informed 48 hours prior to the abortion of the name of the abortionist, a description of the abortion procedure to be performed, health risks associated with abortion, gestational age of the unborn child, and an offering of an ultrasound image of the unborn baby, among other informational requirements.
Immediately pro-abortion forces, particularly led by anti-life feminists, led the charge to oppose the legislative bill. Among its most vocal opponents was International Planned Parenthood (IPPF) Puerto Rico, known here as the Puerto Rico Association for the Benefit of Families, which carries out most Puerto Rico abortions. Amnesty International-Puerto Rico and American Civil Liberties Union-Puerto Rico also strenuously opposed the legislative bill.
The pro-abortion side also had the support of political party leaders in the country, including of the present Governor of Puerto Rico, Hon. Ricardo Rossello, and his cabinet. In particular, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health made known their opposition to the legislative bill. So did the School of Medicine and the School of Psychology of the University of Puerto Rico. Only a few legislators of one of the political parties have identified as pro-life.
HLI Acts and Gives Testimony to Lawmakers
The Puerto Rico Conference of Catholic Bishops have expressed support for the legislative bill, towards obtaining, eventually, the total penalization of abortion in the country. The Guadalupe Center for Life and Family, which serves as HLI Puerto Rico, joined the other Catholic pro-life organizations which are the Saint Joseph Center, Faithful to the Truth, as well as Pharmacists for Life International-Puerto Rico, to support the legislative bill. Also, HLI Puerto Rico encouraged and obtained written testimonies from Catholic pro-life gynecologists and psychologists, in their individual capacity. There were Christian pro-life organizations in the country that expressed their support as well.
As to the written testimony of HLI Puerto Rico, it consisted of a graphic presentation of the abortion procedures and the abortion unborn child victims, as well as a legal refutation of the pro-abortion arguments.
HLI Puerto Rico president Luisa Burgos-Vazquez, executive director Luz Burgos-Vazquez, and legal advisor Marlene Gillette-Ibern, attended the legislative hearing, held September 4 and 5, 2018. The House of the Senate commission assigned to review the legislative bill was presided by the Senate President Thomas Rivera-Schatz. Everyone was heard on that day and the session was packed with legislators, media, and the public.
When HLI Puerto Rico was called to the table to hear their testimony, IPPF Puerto Rico was also called to be seated at the same table. It was a striking moment. HLI founder Father Paul Marx OSB was once called “public enemy number 1” by IPPF, a title that Father Marx would repeat.
The questions from the anti-life legislators were directed to the IPPF Puerto Rico. It was clearly being done to provide more time and space to IPPF Puerto Rico. HLI Puerto Rico was finally able to offer comments and managed to use their time as well in response.
HLI Puerto Rico president Luisa Burgos-Vazquez began by showing a picture of an unborn child at four months of gestation, dead from abortion. It was photographed by the media at that same moment, and that later led to a question from an anti-life legislator about the gestational age. When the legislator was informed that the child was four months of age at the time of her death, the legislator fell silent. HLI Puerto Rico was the only pro-life organization to present graphic images of an unborn child victim.
Additionally, HLI Puerto Rico Advisor Marlene Gillette-Ibern responded to the allegation by an anti-life legislator that abortion in cases of rape and incest is needed. She stated every unborn child is a person with the right to life, and denying life to a child because of conception in rape cases is contrary to the Constitution of Puerto Rico. First, she said constitution prohibits discrimination because of the “social status” of a person and second, women who conceive in rape and abort later report they still suffer from the loss of the child and had they been provided with time to rethink their situation with support, they would not have aborted their child. Marlene Gillette-Ibern also stated that HLI Puerto Rico does not favor imprisonment for pregnant women who consented to the abortion because they are also victims of abortion, and greatly suffer after an abortion. An anti-life legislator questioned how is it that abortion can be considered a practice that can cause so much grief, in comparison to the suffering of women in domestic violence cases, to which the anti-life legislator was told that abortion is an act of violence against women. The legislator was surprised by the answer.
During the testimony offered by HLI Puerto Rico, several anti-life feminists stood up to express opposition, who later suddenly began to shout, “women, mothers, have the right to choose.” Due to the disruption of pro-life testimony, Senate president Thomas Rivera-Schatz had to order the Senate security guards escort the women out of the room. You may witness disruption here at Telemundo 52 Puerto Rico’s site.
Later, one of the Christian organizations brought a woman, an abortion survivor, who offered her testimony. The woman narrated she was the twin of an aborted child. The woman was later discovered to be still alive in the womb of her mother, who refused to undergo a second abortion. The woman shared that her mother was left very much alone, without family support, during the period of her unintended pregnancy. After the abortion, her mother suffered physical and emotional harm and the abortion also affected her family members. It was the last testimony of the day and it impacted everyone. In all, it seemed that anti-life legislators, and even most of the attending public, had never heard the refutation of the pro-abortion myths before that time, in a public forum.
At the end, Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz, announced that, although it was probable that the legislative bill would not be considered for a vote, this was the first of a series of public dialogues on the abortion issue. He also all written testimonies submitted would be published in a book available to the public. He added that if anyone wanted to supplement their testimony with additional information, they could do so. The next day, September 6, Governor Ricardo Rossello, reiterated his opposition to the legislative bill.
One of the arguments made by IPPF Puerto Rico at the legislative hearing was that pregnant women will die of clandestine abortions if abortion on demand, without restrictions, is not allowed. So, September 17, HLI Puerto Rico submitted a supplementary testimony responding to said argument explaining that, whether licit or illicit, abortion forcibly goes against a natural biological stage in a woman, and thus it will always create a dangerous physical situation for women, that can range from infections to death.
HLI Puerto Rico, and the other Catholic pro-life organizations, as well as the Catholic bishops, were the only ones to sustain that abortion must never be allowed to be practiced in Puerto Rico, under any circumstance. Sadly, there were pro-life defenders, including pro-life legislators, who weakly opted to say that abortion must be limited but not prohibited, as if it were a good pro-life strategy. But this strategy does not advance the cause for the unborn nor is it persuasive to the undecided on abortion.
It is clear that HLI Puerto Rico has much work to do in the area of education. Please support HLI so that we may bring the truth to Puerto Rico, the first Catholic country in Latin America that was subjected to the culture of death.