Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the abortion ban in Nicaragua  


Abortion rights in Nicaragua don't exist. Since the country revised the penal code in 2007, abortion has been made illegal regardless of any circumstances, such as rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger. After sending researchers to Nicaragua to study how the ban is affecting people, Amnesty International put together a detailed report (PDF) on the situation, and called the ban a "cruel, inhuman disgrace."

Girls and women can end up in jail for obtaining abortions. And they can share a cell with the doctor or nurse that provided it. Medical professionals are often hesitant to treat pregnant women for illnesses such as malaria or HIV/AIDS out of fear that treatment could cause death or injury to the fetus, and they could be charged with providing an abortion. Many women and girls are terrified of having a miscarriage and being falsely charged with obtaining an abortion. One woman who was admitted to hospital following a miscarriage asked doctors to avoid treating her, frightened that it would look like she had deliberately asked them to terminate her pregnancy.

How did it come to this? In the January 2007 elections, President Daniel Ortega of the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) backed the law banning abortion to win important conservative Roman Catholic support. When the ban was first signed into law, the presidency's website stated the the ban would help protect the "right to life." According to the website, legal abortion in Nicaragua "allowed the daily execution of innocent children in their mother's womb, in open violation of the Constitution which protected the unborn child."

Has anyone read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood? It's a dystopian novel, depicting a future in which women have no reproductive choices; their only value and purpose comes from their "duty" to bear children. As a naive high school senior reading that novel, I insisted that it could never happen.

There are important things that we must do. Your first task is to hit the button below this post that will allow you to tweet it. If you don't have Twitter, post it to Facebook. If you don't have Facebook, pick up the phone. Spreading the word is the next step after educating yourself. Next, visit Amnesty's "Take Action" site that allows you to send a letter to the Nicaraguan presidency. You need to register with Amnesty to send it, but registration takes all of one minute.

What else can we do?

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