Nicaraguan Groups Call on International Community for Help in Case of Pregnant Woman Denied Cancer Treatment

Jodi Jacobson

Women's groups in Nicaragua are calling on the international community to take action on the case of Amelia (an alias, also sometimes spelled Amalia), the pregnant Nicaraguan woman now being denied a therapeutic abortion and effective cancer treatment to save her life.

Previous posts on this case can be found here and here.

Women’s groups in Nicaragua and international organizations working with them are calling on the international community to take action on the case of Amelia (an alias, also sometimes spelled Amalia), the pregnant Nicaraguan woman now being denied a therapeutic abortion and effective cancer treatment to save her life.

They have called on women and men to write immediately to the chair and vice-chair of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and to Nicaraguan government officials. 

The coalition has provided a sample of the points to make in any letters sent and the contact information for relevant officials, all of which can be found below.

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Background on the case:

A statement released by Nicaraguan women’s groups says:

On February 18th, non-governmental organizations challenged Nicaragua’s ban on abortion, filing a petition with the Inter-America Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of a pregnant woman with advanced cancer. Because abortion is completely illegal in Nicaragua, “Amelia,” a 27 year-old mother of a 10 year-old girl, has been denied a therapeutic abortion and is not receiving life-saving cancer treatment as this will affect the well-being of the fetus. The submission presented to the IACHR by the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion in Nicaragua requested that urgent precautionary measures be taken to ensure “Amelia” receives a therapeutic abortion in order to begin cancer treatment and resume care for her daughter.

“Amelia” has had history of medical problems and was recently diagnosed with advanced cancer.   She is ten-weeks pregnant and has been hospitalized for the past month.

In order to treat the cancer and improve Amelia’s chances of survival, doctors determined that termination of the pregnancy was necessary.  However, because abortion is illegal and punishable with criminal sanctions in Nicaragua, this lifesaving abortion was denied by hospital administrators where she is being treated. Furthermore, her doctors have not provided Amelia cancer treatment claiming this could harm the fetus or interrupt her pregnancy. According to Nicaraguan law a pregnancy takes precedence over a woman’s right to life.

Abortion in Nicaragua:

In 2006, Nicaragua passed a law banning all abortions without exception.  Previously, abortion was permitted only for therapeutic reasons, that is, when a pregnancy jeopardized a woman’s life or health.  Since the law went into effect there have been many documented cases of women who have died or been injured because they were denied a therapeutic abortion.

Nicaragua has been condemned by human rights, medical and civil society organizations for not fulfilling its obligations to protect Nicaraguan women and girls. The restrictive abortion law also has been the subject of two critical reports issued by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Both organizations highlighted the damaged the law caused to women and their doctors, the latter of whom are legally prohibited from providing abortion—a basic medical treatment. 

These groups, as well as four United Nations expert committees including the Committee against Torture, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women, have specifically recommended that Nicaragua change its law to protect women’s fundamental human rights. 

The coalition’s statement notes that:

Two weeks ago, at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council’s review of Nicaragua’s human rights record, 11 country delegations recommended that the total ban on abortion be lifted to permit therapeutic abortion.  A working group issued a report containing recommendations that Nicaragua modify its legislation to conform to international standards that protect women and girls, included that they review their law prohibiting abortion.  Nicaragua committed to reviewing all the recommendations but completely ruled out restoring therapeutic abortions.

It is expected that a high level commission in the Nicaraguan Medical Association will issue a statement on Amelia’s case on Wednesday, February 25th.

Anti-choice groups are, however, even now disputing Ameila’s condition and need for a therapeutic abortion.

Request for action:

Women’s groups are asking for urgent action. They are currently asking that individuals and organizations send letters today making the following points, to the contacts listed below:

  • The state should not inhibit doctors from having honest, medically accurate discussions with their patients about their health, life, and treatment options;
  • Amelia must have immediate access to timely, quality information and be able to determine her own course of treatment;
  • All decisions taken (by the IACHR/Nicaraguan government) must consider Amalia’s well-being and health first;
  • Amelia’s cancer treatment must be authorized without further delay. Amelia has indicated she wants cancer treatment.

Contacts for two key members of the IACHR:

  • Luz Patricia Mejía, Chair: Rapporteur for Argentina, Ecuador y Bolivia, and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women.  [email protected]

  • Felipe González, IACHR Vice-Chair: Rapporteur for Brasil, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, and Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families. [email protected]

Both can also be reached by fax at: 202-458-3992

Contacts for Nicaraguan authorities: 

Daniel Ortega Saavedra Rosario Murillo, President of the Republic
of Nicaragua; [email protected] 

Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, Minister of Health, Nicaragua.  [email protected]

Marcia Ramirez Minister for the Family, mmuñ[email protected]

Cro. Samuel Santos Chancellor of the Republic of Nicaragua,  [email protected] 

José Pallais President, Commission on Justice of the National Assembly,    [email protected]

Edwin Castro Head of the PSLN Party, National Assembly (505)883-5046 [email protected]

Ing. Ana Julia Balladares President, Commission on Women [email protected]

Monica Baltodano Independent Deputy [email protected]

Dra. Alba Luz Ramos Judge [email protected]

Dr. Francisco Rosales, President of the Constitutional branch of the Supreme Court of Justice,  [email protected]

Dr. Manuel Martinez President, Supreme Court of Justice [email protected] 

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