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Nicaraguan Government and Restrictive Abortion Laws

I recently read an article about how the Nicaraguan government is denying cancer treatment to a women because she is pregnant. This is only the latest outrage in a country that has the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. The case concerns a 27-year-old woman who has cancer that is suspected to have spread to her brain, lungs and breasts. But Nicaraguan authorities have withheld life-saving treatment from her because it could harm the fetus and violate the country's total ban on abortion.

Nicaragua has one of the most draconian abortion laws in the world. It is one of the few countries to prohibit abortion under any circumstances. Girls and women who seek an abortion -- as well as health professionals who provide health services associated with abortion -- face jail.

Needless to say, these restrictions have taken their toll. According to official figures, 33 girls and women died in pregnancy in 2009; the year before, 20 died. Amnesty International believes these figures are only a minimum, as the government itself has acknowledged that the number of maternal deaths is under-recorded.

It gets worse. According to a survey of media reports between '05 and '07, 1,247 girls were reported in newspapers to have been raped or to been the victims of incest in Nicaragua. Of these crimes, 198 were reported to have resulted in pregnancy. The overwhelming majority of the girls made pregnant as a result (172 of them) were between 10 and 14 years old.

The Nicaraguan abortion ban isn't only a debacle on humanitarian grounds. It's an enormous setback for women's rights in this small country, once at the vanguard of women's liberation in Latin America. It's widely understood that Daniel Ortega, the two-time president of Nicaragua who is currently in power, signed onto this abortion ban as a paean to the country's powerful Catholic Church, which launched an aggressive campaign against abortion back in '06 (the law was enacted in '07).

This case is not only a problem within the government of Nicaragua, but also a large problem withing the Catholic church. Coming from a Catholic school, I understand that the church has a "no abortion" policy, but I do not see the logic, or morale, in sacrificing one life for another. A reformation of the church's understanding on the matter of abortion must take place. I understand that a child is a life, but so is a mother, and surely the church should see that.

This brings up a question I have often times asked myself:

Is it right to make an attempt to save a child if it costs the mother, and perhaps even that child, life?

The answer is a resounding "no", as far as I am concerned.



More articles by Category: Feminism, Health, International, Politics, Religion, Violence against women
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