Friday, February 05, 2010

Abortion in Nicaragua

I wrote this for Wikipedia, and I'm repeating it here:
A report on the effects of Nicaragua's church-inspired total abortion ban was filed by the Human Rights Watch in October 2007. Human Rights Watch reports the deaths of at least eighty Nicaraguan women in the eleven months following the ban. To compile the report, interviews were conducted with health officials, women in need of health services, doctors in public health, doctors in the private healthcare system, and family members of women who died as a result of the ban.

An unintended side effect has been a 'chilling" of other forms of obstetrical care for women. The report states, "While no doctors have been prosecuted for the crime of abortion, as far as we know, the mere possibility of facing criminal charges for providing lifesaving health services has had a deadly effect.... the Health Ministry does not monitor the full implementation of the protocols, does not systematize complaints received for the delay or denial of care, and so far has not studied the impact of the law on the lives and health of women." The report quotes an obstetrician as saying "since the law was signed, [public hospitals] don’t treat any hemorrhaging, not even post-menopausal hemorrhaging."

Nicaragua’s Health Ministry officials told Human Rights Watch that they did not have any official documentation of the effects of the blanket ban and no plans for gathering such documentation. Consequently, statements that the ban has not caused women's deaths can not be substantiated. By contrast, the report cites several case histories. News reports put the number of deaths at 82 after the law has been in effect less than a year.

The point of view of Human Rights Watch is that the law intentionally denies women access to health services essential to saving their lives, and is thus inconsistent with Nicaragua’s obligations under international human rights law to ensure women’s right to life. Their report is called, "Over Their Dead Bodies."

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