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The Legislative Assembly is discussing significant amendments to the Civil Code behind closed doors.

While Puerto Rico — and the world — battles the coronavirus pandemic, the Legislative Assembly is discussing significant amendments to the Civil Code behind closed doors. 

The fact that no public hearings were held, documents including the latest amendments have not been officially released, the sessions are not being transmitted for public viewing and in addition, was all done during a pandemic that has people under strict stay-at-home orders has stirred the pot in Puerto Rico, resulting in a mass digital mobilization from citizens all over the island, and the diaspora. 

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Language in the bill includes changes like women needing the court’s permission to have abortions, the privatization of public beaches, and making it impossible for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificate.

It should be noted that because the official document has not been released, only leaked, and contains hundreds of pages, the necessary reviews have not been made, so most Puerto Ricans aren’t sure what new changes the Senate might have added, and if the language restricting abortions and privatizing beaches has been changed. 

On Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on the new amendments to the Puerto Rican Civil Code, which was passed by the Senate on Monday. 

Different civil liberties groups in Puerto Rico have been leading the movement on social media, calling for citizens to contact their Senators and Representatives to vote against the new civil code. The contact information, including the personal phone numbers of those in charge of pushing the Code forward were made public. Groups outside of the island have also joined the fight.

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The hashtag #NoAlCodigoCivil (and other variations), which means no to the Civil Code made the rounds through Twitter throughout the week, motivating citizens to tweet out against the code, and ask governor Wanda Vázquez to veto once it makes it to her desk.

The hashtag caught the attention of Puerto Rican celebrities like Residente, Ricky Martin, and Bad Bunny — all involved in the protests that ousted former governor Ricardo Rosselló — among many more. 

Even CBS correspondent David Begnaud, considered by many a champion of Puerto Ricans in the United States, is covering the developing story. 

Activist groups like Taller Salud and No a la Reforma Laboral, have created informative icon graphics with step by step instructions on how to make your voice heard, like tweeting at the Governor, emailing her and representatives set to vote on Thursday, and calling Fortaleza and El Capitolio (the Capitol). Other images with information on the amendments, plus online petitions have made the rounds through Facebook and Twitter.

Conservative House representatives María Milagros “Tata” Charbonier and Carlos Johnny Méndez — the House President — have spearheaded the movement since 2018 when they presented the new Code. As the head of the House Committee on Judicial Affairs, Charbonier has been mobilizing to pass these changes, most recently in November of 2019, but the measure failed after massive public outcry. 

Charnbonier has been claiming the House passing the Senate amendments is inevitable. The movement is more focused now on pleading governor Vázquez when the Code ends up on her desk. On Wednesday, Vázquez tweeted that she will evaluate the project very carefully.