Blood on their hands

// 23 February 2008

I just watched last night’s Unreported World on women’s situation in Nicaragua since the law banning all abortion was passed there in 2006 (you can watch it on 4OD online or catch-up TV if you’ve got it). Once again, I am left shaking and fuming at the complete disdain shown for women’s lives by those who oppose safe, legal abortion.

Elective abortion has long been illegal in Nicaragua, but the 2006 law also outlawed abortion on medical grounds, and in cases of rape and incest. The law was brought in by the new leftist government who, according to a leading pro-choice feminist spokeswoman, courted Catholic and evangelical Christian voters by promising to ban all forms of abortion. The Channel 4 documentary made it clear that the law has had a devastating effect on women’s lives and health across the country.

We meet a pregnant woman who has to take strong medication for a heart condition. Pregnancy is making her weak and putting her life in danger, while the medication could cause disabilities in her child. She wants – needs – an abortion, but both she and her doctor risk years in jail if they go through with it.

A young mother dies, leaving behing her five year old son, after doctors refuse to carry out the abortion that would save her life.

Prostitutes who regularly used backstreet practitioners before the new law came in now find even this risky source of abortion more expensive and less accessible; one demonstrates how she gave herself an abortion using a plastic tube and hook.

A rural healer creates herbal remedies to induce abortions in village women who cannot afford to raise another child; if anything goes wrong they are 6 hours from professional gynaecological care.

A rape victim is unable and unwilling to have an abortion as her Catholic upbringing has taught her that God will punish her if she “kills her child”.

Every single woman in Nicaragua is at risk because of this law. Unsurprisingly, it is male Church leaders and politicians who pushed this law through, and female doctors and healers who are left to pick up the pieces, risking the revocation of their title and many years’ imprisonment – away from their own children – for trying to save the lives and health of women who resort to the backstreets or whose pregnancy is a threat to their existence.

I am ashamed, I am fucking ashamed, that I was christened Catholic, that officially I am a member of this women-hating, patriarchal religion that I have nothing but contempt for. Yes, I’m sure there are Catholics who have done wonderful things for humanity, but the central tenets of this religion pose a threat to women everywhere; according to the current Pope, abortion is intrinsically evil. It is this belief that has led to the anti-abortion law in Nicaragua, that led to the deaths of at least 82 Nicaraguan women in less than a year, and that puts the lives and health of every woman in that country in jeopardy.

This is the human sacrifice that “pro-lifers” are willing to make in their fight to rid the world of women’s right to abortion.

They make me sick.

Image of crucified pregnant woman by Mllerustad, shared under a Creative Commons License.

Comments From You

Kellie // Posted 24 February 2008 at 5:42 pm

I just want to offer my support to the author. Its vile and sickening when women are treated as baby-vessels and their physical and emotional health, and sometimes their lives are disregarded by laws made by hateful religious leaders who dont know the meaning of love and compassion. We wouldn’t treat animals this way.

I could tell how upset you were and I just wanted to remind you that you aren’t alone in being so passionate about these issues. Keep writing up your thoughts and spreading the message that this abuse of women rights cannot continue.

With respect and love


Laura // Posted 24 February 2008 at 9:15 pm

Thanks, Kellie :-)

EBaeza Chavez // Posted 25 February 2008 at 12:43 am

I second that support. This is disgraceful, and even worse that its come from a leftist governement, although saying that neither Chavez nor Morales has a great record on women’s rights.

I really wish these people were forced to donate all their organs to children or something equally vicious. “Life” is easy to sacrifice when its not you & yours.

Danielle // Posted 25 February 2008 at 2:06 am

If in places like China, where the government are trying to reduce population growth, women were forced to have abortions, it would be considered (unanimously) by the whole world to be a gross violation of their human rights. Their human rights, one would assume, to control their reproductive destinies.

Women in Nicaragua are having their reproductive rights withdrawn from them (I fail to see how forcing women to give birth, even at risk to their own lives, is any different to forcing them to have abortions) so where is the outcry here?

I do believe that abortion is intrinsically NEGATIVE (not EVIL), no one finds out they’re pregnant, claps their hands and shouts “Yay, I can have an abortion!” and contrary to popular belief, feminists don’t go around persuading pregnant women to have abortions just for the sake of it. However, there are other considerations to take into account, such as the mother’s right to autonomy (to name the most obvious!)

tomhulley // Posted 25 February 2008 at 1:19 pm

Basically I don’t think it helps when blokes talk about abortion. However I want to say something about honesty and hypocrisy. I love your spirit and your honesty Laura. In the other camp, pro-life etc is nothing to do with termination or valuing humanity -it is about imposing control on women.

I have been involved in pregnancy counselling. Decisions about termination are often really difficult mainly because everyone is pushing the woman for something. Counsellors try to clear a space for the counselled to work in without being directed. In my experience being pushed into or away from termination can have far reaching effects.

Years ago I wrote a line in poem ” anorexic girls really do know their own minds” -I am sick of bullying professionals and bullying believers but love your enthusiastic commitment in all the mailings.

No -I do not know what to do about termination beyond suggesting that men should not be allowed to vote on it.

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