Three prominent Nicaraguans have reacted to an Associated Press story that claimed that Nicaragua’s new strict anti-abortion law had cost women’s lives, calling the report “misleading and grossly inaccurate.”
The November 27 AP story, "Nicaraguan abortion ban proves deadly," claimed at least three women and possibly twelve more had died because of the ban.
A letter to the Washington Times challenged the story. Its signatories were Dr. Walter Mendieta, president of the Nicaraguan Medical Association; Lucia Bohemer, president of the Nicaraguan Association of Women; and Dr. Rafael J. Cabrera, the rector of the University of Medical Sciences in Managua.
The letter said that the November, 2006 law further restricting abortion removed an “outdated, phony, ‘therapeutic’ abortion exception” that was open to abuse and “incompatible with modern medical, moral and legal principles.”
The writers claimed that in the first 47 weeks of 2007, after the law went into effect, maternal deaths declined 23 percent. These deaths include all deaths from the beginning of pregnancy until six weeks after delivery, including accidents, murders, suicide, and non-obstetrical deaths. Eighty percent of the deaths resulted from conditions at the end of pregnancy, such as ecclampsia, hemorrhages, and puerperal sepsis.
The letter flatly denied the AP’s fatality report, saying “No woman has died in Nicaragua for not having a "therapeutic" abortion since the practice was banned in November 2006.”
According to the letter, the law allows medical procedures to be performed on women with pregnancy complications, even if such treatments indirectly cause the death of their unborn children. Reportedly, physicians who fail to provide such care are liable for their failure. “Women with complications from pregnancy must be offered necessary treatment,” the letter said.
The letter claimed the positive results of the Nicaraguan law were comparable to those found in other countries with strict abortion laws.
It also noted an outcome that went unmentioned in the AP article: “Another positive result, not in any way to be minimized, is that more Nicaraguan children have escaped the abortionists' knives, poisons and suction machines.”
Accusing the AP story of fueling “unprecedented international interference” in Nicaragua, the letter decried the “intense pressure” from abroad. Pressures came not only from what the letter called “the usual radical feminist and misguided human rights internationalists,” but also foreign governments. According to the letter, some European countries have threatened to cut off financial aid to Nicaragua unless the law is changed.