Women’s lives at risk because of Nicaragua’s abortion ban

Activist Ana María Pizarro, tells Amnesty International how pregnant women are at risk of losing their lives because of Nicaragua’s abortion ban. “Many young women say ‘I can’t risk getting pregnant in this country'” There can’t be a law in Nicaragua which criminalizes something which only happens in women’s bodies, because from that moment we are no longer equal before the law.   Women in Nicaragua are afraid to have a family, to get pregnant. Many young women say ‘I can’t risk getting pregnant in this country because I’m frightened that a (medical) complication could lead to my losing my life’. I worked in the public health service for 10 years. Before, there used to be an analysis committee for the interruption of pregnancies, in the public hospitals. Now in the public hospitals, out of fear, women are left to die. There are cases of (pregnant) women who have treatable illnesses which aren’t treated. Women who have money can pay for a [clandestine] abortion and poor women have to carry on using basic, dangerous methods because they aren’t allowed to have an abortion in safe conditions. We’re creating a problem of social justice because in both of these cases, women can be sent to prison. The difference is that the poor women are going to die, and the women who aren’t poor won’t run any risk because they will be able to find professionals who can carry out an abortion safely. One of the cases I know happened in Condega, in one of the provinces of Nicaragua. A young woman of 25 arrived at a health centre one Sunday at 5am, where they diagnosed that she had had an induced abortion. In the space of two hours, the nurse and the doctor from the health centre informed the police and at 7am the police were inside the health centre interrogating the young woman. The doctor, while a sample was being taken from the young woman’s womb, filmed and took photos of the young woman, who was naked at the time. Then the police took photos of the young woman while the procedure was being carried out – again, while she was naked. On the Monday the young woman was transferred to hospital and reported to the public prosecutor’s office. The public prosecutor’s office sent the case to the forensic doctor, who carried out a forensic assessment of her and on the Tuesday the young woman was being accused in court. She was interrogated while she was on a drip and under treatment. The doctor said that the young woman didn’t need a lawyer, they compelled her to testify and to incriminate herself. They obliged her to give information about details like how the abortion had been carried out. Without a trial they ordered her to six months under house arrest, which is what the law stipulates. Since they had obliged her to give evidence against herself, a trial wasn’t necessary. She’s living out her sentence now. The whole thing was carried out so quickly. This is not at all the case with rapists, with murderers, with those who abuse women, or when it’s an issue of corruption or violence, both of which affect Nicaragua so hugely.