Abortion Ban in Nicaragua

Wednesday, February 17th, was the first day of the Forty Days for Life Campaign.  This campaign is organized by different pro-life groups across the world.  The timing of course is meant to by symbolic in that in coincides with Lent, the forty-six day period before Easter, which in Christianity is supposed to consist of self-reflection and sacrifice.  As an article posted on RH Reality Check points out, these campaigners and protesters instead reflect on the “wrongdoings” of others, rather than their own.  The purpose of this campaign is to end abortion on a global scale and “save babies.”  These individuals plan to do this by selecting abortion clinics across the world and praying outside of the targeted clinics in order to pressure the women into making the “right” decision.  Unfortunately, the harassment is not only in the form of prayer.  During this specific period, there is always a marked increase in violence against clinic patients, workers, and even passerbys.

This picture was taken at an anti-choice protest. Note the poster "God Sent the Shooter" which is in response to the assasination of Dr. Tiller, a late-term abortion provider.

There is great controversy around the world surrounding the issue of abortion.  However, we cannot deny that all human beings have the right to health and life because these rights are specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Center for Reproductive Rights recently put out a report analyzing the increased violence against reproductive rights activists which says: “Reproductive rights include a woman’s right to make fundamental decisions about her life and family, to access the reproductive health services necessary to protect her health, and to decide whether and when to have children. Reproductive rights are based on a number of fundamental human rights, including the rights to health, life, equality, information, education and privacy, as well as freedom from discrimination. In particular, the right to health includes ‘the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.’’ I feel that this quote summarizes my exact sentiments on this issue.  Having autonomy over one’s own body is a fundamental human right.  Regardless of the circumstance, one person should not have the right to choose what is best for another person.  The reasons for having an abortion vary from unintended pregnancy to maternal health risks, but these are not all seen as equally legitimate.  In this post, I will focus on the most universally accepted form of abortion – one that comes as a result of a woman’s life being in danger.

Approximately six percent of abortions in the United States are directly related to maternal health risks, but the global statistics are currently unavailable.  One can assume that the numbers are different depending on the country’s healthcare system and the country’s overall health issues.  If a woman’s life is in jeopardy, most countries are willing to allow a woman to have an abortion.  Some examples include Brazil, Egypt, and Papua New Guinea.  Many governments recognize this as a legitimate reason for having an abortion. However, in some countries such as Nicaragua, there is absolutely no exception to the law and a woman is unable to have an abortion under any circumstances.

The work I discussed earlier is being down by individuals and specific pro-life organizations that tend to have a religious framework for their argument, but what happens when governments start acting in similar ways? In Nicaragua, the line between church and state has completely blurred.  Because of pressure from the Catholic Church, the laws have changed in favor of the church.  The country has no health/sex education so how are people supposed to become informed, especially if they are raised in families that do not support sexuality?  In Nicaragua, there is a ban on abortion.  Until 2006, the law recognized that women could be put in danger by giving birth and made exceptions in those situations.  Now, abortion is illegal under all circumstances.  To learn more about this situation, particularly the role of the Catholic church, watch this video.

A woman that the media is referring to as “Amelia” has been diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer.  Amelia is in a desperate situation and needs to be given immediate medical care, but the medical system in her country is unwilling to help her because she is pregnant.  “Furthermore, her doctors have not provided Amelia cancer treatment claiming this could harm the fetus or interrupt her pregnancy.”  Here, Amelia’s life is not as important as the fetus that is not even completely developed.  She is still in her first trimester so the procedure would not be complicated or invasive.  Activists around the world are fighting against Nicaragua in order to have them legalize therapeutic abortions.  On Thursday, an official statement will be released by the Nicaraguan Medical Association regarding Amelia’s situation.  To learn more about this situation and how to get involved, check out this article.

Regardless of the circumstances, a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body, although this is not being implemented all over the world.  Even in countries such as the United States where abortion is legal, there are constant efforts to change the legal status of abortion.  As I mentioned earlier, many people are eager to “end” abortion but do not realize that it cannot end until there are fundamental changes to our social structure.  Until then, whether or not it is legal, abortions will continue to happen.  Making abortion illegal would cause women to resort to tactics, such as wire hangers, used before Roe v. Wade which pose great risks to their health and life. Even today with legal abortion in the Untied States, nearly ninety percent of counties do not have an abortion provider.  The Center for Reproductive Rights put together a statement analyzing the ways in which the United States is currently failing to uphold human rights in regards to reproductive rights.  There are three major areas of concern: “racial disparities in reproductive health”, women in prison are forced to given birth while shackled, and ratify CEDAW and other similar treaties (I will talk more about these issues in future posts).

“There are an estimated 25 million to 30 million legal abortions worldwide each year, and a further 20 million unsafe, illegal abortions.”  Thousands and thousands of women die each year from illegal abortions, disproportionately in Africa and Asia.  As human beings, we have the right to health and autonomy, but this is not the case when women are forced to choose between unsafe abortions or their personal well-being.  Abortions are going to happen whether they are legal or not.  The difference is that when abortion is legal, women are much more likely to be treated in safe, hygienic environments versus back allies and illegal medical centers.

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