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Nicaragua Abortion Law Puts Pregnant Cancer Victim at Risk
LONDON - Amnesty International today called on the Nicaraguan authorities to
provide cancer treatment to a pregnant woman that is currently being
withheld because of a law that bans abortion in all circumstances.
Amalia (not her real name), 27, is 10 weeks pregnant and was
diagnosed, on 2 February, with cancer which may have already spread to
her brain, lungs and breasts.
The Nicaraguan authorities are impeding doctors from providing
cancer treatment to her while she is pregnant because medical staff
could face prosecution if they cause harm to the foetus during her
treatment, even if the harm is caused unintentionally.
“It is shocking that Nicaragua would deny a cancer patient
potentially life saving treatment because she is pregnant,” said Esther
Major, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International.
“Amalia’s situation reveals the impact of this law and demonstrates
the urgent need to repeal this draconian ban which prevents the
delivery of timely care and impedes sound medical judgment,” said
Esther Major, “Each day is critical for Amalia’s chances of survival
and the Nicaraguan authorities must take immediate steps to provide her
the full range of health care appropriate to treat her cancer.”
Doctors treating Amalia have refused to use radiotherapy and chemotherapy because they fear prosecution.
Amalia is also the sole carer of her 10-year-old daughter. In
December 2009 Amalia sought treatment in a local clinic for breathing
problems, fever, nausea and fainting. She was referred to a hospital
for tests, where she has been hospitalised since 2 February. Her
doctors said she required urgent chemotherapy and radiotherapy
treatment but have not initiated any of these treatments because of
fear of unintentional harm to the feotus.
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“Nicaragua’s ban of therapeutic abortions is a human rights scandal
that ridicules medical science and turns the law into a weapon against
the provision of essential medical care to pregnant women and girls,”
said Esther Major.
In 2006, prior to the ban on abortion introduced, 21 Nicaraguan
medical associations from across the spectrum of medical disciplines
issued a joint public statement against the proposed total ban on
abortion, with an explicit warning that health professionals’ ability
to provide health care and practice their profession would be limited
if the prohibition was passed.
On 18 February Nicaraguan NGOs and the largest professional
gynaecological association in Nicaragua asked the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights to request "special measures," which would
require the government to fulfil its legal obligations to protect
Amalia’s right to life and health and ensure she is immediately
provided with treatment which could save, or at least prolong, her life.
“Nicaragua's total ban on abortion is unlawful and the Nicaraguan
government has also ignored the calls for the law criminalising
abortion to be repealed by four United Nations expert treaty bodies,
including the Committee Against Torture", said Esther Major
Two weeks ago 11 member states of the United Nations called on
Nicaragua to amend its laws on abortion, due to the rise in maternal
deaths and rape victims who are being compelled to carry pregnancies to
term since the laws’ introduction.
"A legal challenge to the constitutional basis for the law has also
been before the constitutional section of the Supreme Court for over
year,” said Esther Major.
"Amnesty International is appalled at the Nicaraguan government's refusal to respond to the pleas to change this cruel law.”
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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.