Latin America

Women Die After Nicaragua’s Ban on Abortions

The debate over whether abortion is right or wrong may continue forever, but there are serious risks involved when abortions are banned entirely. In 2006 Nicaragua became one of 35 countries to implement a universal ban on abortions, and the law holds even if the mother’s life is in jeopardy. The law comes in wake of a surge of religious fervor which is currently gripping the country, but no abortion laws have ever had as serious of effects on Nicaragua’s female population as this one.

Between January and October of 2007 more than 84 pregnancy-related deaths had been recorded in Nicaragua. Records show that many of these women sought medical care for hemorrhaging but were denied assistance by doctors who feared having their medical licenses revoked if they performed any kind of surgery on a pregnant woman. When 22-year-old Olga Reyes suffered an ectopic pregnancy doctors delayed more than four days before performing a hurried operation. It is confirmed that the doctors knew exactly what the problem was, but delayed Olga’s surgery in hopes that the fetus would die before the operation and thus safe the doctors the possibility of being accused of performing an abortion.

Many more women have been driven to underground illegal abortions which are always dangerous and sometimes fatal. Many doctors comment on growing numbers of women who flood emergency rooms with infections from abortions which leave them scarred, infertile, or dead. Ultimately, the Nicaraguan ban on abortions has paralyzed the medical community and further debilitated the status of women in this Latin American country.

“Women Die After Nicaragua’s Ban on Abortions.” MSNBC.Com (accessed July 6, 2008).

Unsolved Killings Terrorize Women in Guatemala

Guatemala is quite possibly one of the most terrifying places to be a woman. In recent years a phenomenon of violence against women has developed in Guatemala. Young women of every age are disappearing throughout Guatemala only to be found raped, mutilated, and dead in a parking lot or alley. The occurrence of such murders is so prevalent that the Guatemalan government and the international community have dubbed such killings “femicides.” The cultural roots of this violence are unclear, but it is possible that the country’s political instability or the two-decade civil war in which civilians were routinely threatened with murder could be the source of the conflict. However, no matter the cause, it is certain that the Guatemalan government is doing next to nothing to protect the female population.

Many international investigators have dubbed the Guatemalan culture of “impunity” the cause of the continuing violence. Of the 1,500 femicides committed since 2003, only 14 of the perpetrators been received a jail sentence. In most situations, a reported murder is ignored by the police for days or weeks. If the case is ever investigated bloody clothing is returned to the family instead of analyzed as evidence, DNA testing is not performed, and the case is eventually put into their archives.

Most Guatemalan politicians refuse to acknowledge that most of this violence against women is unprovoked, instead stating that these women had connections to gangs or prostitution. The femicide board which was created by the government has done little with the $500,000 it has been given to “research” the issue. Women’s-rights activists call for money to be spent on improving the investigation of femicides, not enhancing the governmental bureaucracy.

Lakshmanan, Indira. “Unsolved Killings Terrorize Women in Guatemala.” The Boston Globe… (accessed July 25, 2008).