Sad, sad news from Nicaragua, where another young mother has died as a result of the new law prohibiting abortion under any circumstances—including when a pregnant woman's life is at risk. On February 7 the Nicaraguan daily El Nuevo Diario reported that 22-year-old Francis Zamora died at Managua's Hospital Berta Calderón on January 30 from a massive infection resulting from a miscarriage that had begun days earlier. Claiming that their hands were tied by the new law, doctors had refused to perform a D&C (procedure to empty the uterus) that could have saved her life until it was too late. Francis leaves behind her mother, as well as three children, ages six, five, and one and a half.
Francis's ordeal began when she arrived at a health center in Tipitapa, just north of the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, with sharp abdominal pains. She was quickly transferred to the emergency room at Hospital Alemán in Managua, where doctors told her mother that because of the new ban on therapeutic abortion, they couldn't perform a D&C to clear Francis's uterus (thereby staving off a potentially fatal infection) until she had expelled the fetus naturally. So she waited. Over 24 hours later, she finally expelled the fetus, and the doctors at Hospital Alemán performed two D&Cs, then transferred her to Hospital Berta Calderón, also in Managua. She arrived at Berta Calderón already in critical condition, suffering septic shock. Doctors removed her uterus, but it was already too late. Francis died in the hospital on January 30, days after her miscarriage had begun.
Francis is not alone. According to "The Denial of the Right to Therapeutic in Nicaragua: Health Impact," a report recently released by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), 48 women suffer miscarriages every single day in Nicaragua. Every day, 49 women risk death from gynecological or obstetric problems. Every day, one woman arrives in a hospital with a molar pregnancy, and another arrives with a cancer-related pregnancy.
As the PAHO report points out, criminalizing therapeutic abortion doesn't just prevent doctors from being able to save women's lives. It also increases the chances that women will risk unsafe, clandestine abortions in cases of congenital malformation, obstetric complications, or gynecological cancer—which in turn causes even more deaths. Compañeras, welcome to the culture of life.
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