Blood on their hands

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.