Monday, October 08, 2007

Abortion in Nicaragua - A Warning

With the election of Daniel Ortega, there was much to be positive about the future of Nicaragua. At last, there was a leader that responded to the needs of the poor, rather than pandering to the rich, American loving elites. Certainly there have been encouraging developments since his election, in part due to the development of close ties with Chavez, Morales et al. However, not everything is rosy in Nicaragua. Last November it became a crime for a woman to have an abortion, even if her own life was at risk. Since the law was passed, nearly 100 women have died. Rory Carroll has written a heart-breaking account in The Guardian of the fight to have the law changed in Nicaragua. Here's an extract:

María de Jesús González was a practical woman. A very poor single mother, the 28-year-old's home was a shack on a mountain near the town of Ocotal in Nicaragua. She made the best of it. The shack was spotless, the children scrubbed. She earned money by washing clothes in the river and making and selling tortillas.

That was not quite enough to feed her four young children and her elderly mother, so every few months González caught a bus to Managua, the capital, and slaved for a week washing and ironing clothes. The pay was three times better, about £2.60 a day, and by staying with two aunts she cut her costs. She would return to her hamlet with a little nest-egg in her purse. She bought herself one treat - a pair of red shoes - but she would leave them with her family in Managua, as they were no good on the mountain trails she had to go up to get home.

During a visit to Managua in February she felt unwell and visited a hospital. The news was devastating. She was pregnant - and it was ectopic, meaning the foetus was growing outside the womb and not viable. The longer González remained pregnant, the greater the risk of rupture, haemorrhaging and death.

What González did next was - when you understand what life in Nicaragua is like these days - utterly rational. She walked out of the hospital, past the obstetrics and gynaecological ward, past the clinics and pharmacies lining the avenues, packed her bag, kissed her aunts goodbye, and caught a bus back to her village. She summoned two neighbouring women - traditional healers - and requested that they terminate the pregnancy in her shack. Without anaesthetic or proper instruments it was more akin to mutilation than surgery, but González insisted. The haemhorraging was intense, and the agony can only be imagined. It was in vain. Maria died. "We heard there was a lot of blood, a lot of pain," says Esperanza Zeledon, 52, one of the Managua aunts.

This is just one example of the butchery that has emerged in Nicaragua since the passing of this law. A further 81 women were victim to similar circumstances as Maria. If nothing else, these heart-breaking stories emphasise the consequences of any action to take away the right to abortion. It is a right that is worth protecting.