Nicaragua and El Salvador are 2 out of the 8 countries in the world with a complete abortion ban. It is a crime even if the woman’s life in mortal danger. This means that women all over Nicaragua and El Salvador are being rejected abortion, even if the alternative is certain death. This reflects a cultural attitude that perceives women as lesser humans.

Risking women’s life in Nicaragua

“Therapeutic abortion”, meaning abortion because the woman’s life is at risk, has been accepted in Nicaragua from 1837 until recently. Yet setbacks occurred in 2007. This was when President Daniel Ortega started working to ban abortions completely. Now Nicaragua is part of the 8 countries including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras,Suriname, Malta and the Vatican that ban abortions with no mercy.

This meant that in for example, in 2010, “Amelia” was declined treatment for her metastatic cancer. The state argued that the necessary chemo and radiotherapy could trigger a miscarriage. She died the following year. This example reflects one devastating consequence of the abortion laws; unnecessary deaths. A similar problem is that it forces women to seek illegal abortions.

Both The Lancet and the Guttmacher Institute agree that restrictive laws do not prevent women from getting abortions. Instead, it has led 3/4 of all abortions in Latin America to being performed illegally, which puts women’s lives at risk.

Women as lesser humans

The strict abortion laws in Nicaragua and El Salvador reflects horrible and degrading views on women. It means that women are not in charge of their own bodies. They are degraded to be lesser humans. Women are not recognized as full individuals entitled to be in control of their own lives. -A woman’s value is only measured to the extent in which she can reproduce. Instead of an own individual life, worthy of safety.

The Nicaraguan 16 and pregnant

An obvious consequence of the abortion law is young mothers. Most Nicaraguans I have spoken with, have empathized their worries for the teenage moms. At the same time, there is a wider acceptance for them than I have experienced in Europe. This might be because it is more common. Yet, many are conscious of the fact that it is a product of the machismo attitudes that rule the country. Still, they do not see many solutions to the problem.

As a result; society has adapted to it quite well. Many Universities has nurseries and babies are highly valued in the culture. The struggle of being a teenage mom in Nicaragua is very real. But at least society shows more acceptance of them than in Europe.

Full Criminalization of Abortion in El Salvador

The situation in El Salvador is worse. Since 1999, El Salvador has followed a policy which states that human life starts at the moment of conception. This means that miscarriages or unintended abortions are equal to murder. The mother will be judged after this belief, even if the pregnancy is the result of rape or the woman’s life is at risk.

Teenager sentenced to 30 years in prison after experiencing rape and miscarriage

Evelyn Beatriz Hernández Cruz, (19) claims she did not know she was pregnant when she had her miscarriage. Now she is convicted of aggravated homicide and is sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The case triggered many statements from different international organizations, here are some:

“The judgment sentencing Evelyn to 30 years in prison shows how in El Salvador justice is applied without direct proof, without sufficient evidence that clarifies what a woman has done.” – Morena Herrera, Executive Director of the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion.

“It is also time for El Salvador to review its 1997 law on abortion and end such injustices.” – OHCHR

“El Salvador’s anti-abortion law is causing nothing but pain and suffering to countless women and girls and their families…” “…It goes against human rights and it has no place in the country or anywhere.” – Erika Guevara-Rosas, the group’s Americas Director at Amnesty International

These statements reflect a world nation that worries for these women, and with continuing putting pressure on the countries, hopefully, change will follow.

So, why still a gruesome problem?

Why are the women in these countries still suffering from the strict abortion laws? After all, several organizations and individuals are recognizing the problem.

There is a clear link between the reproductive rights in Latin America and the state of a country’s level of democracy. Thus, the way forward is to continue fighting for women’s rights through democratization. But, this is easier said than done. Because, these cultural problems, like most in Latin America, roots in the colonial history. Colonization has reshaped and developed these attitudes toward women. As well as creating corrupt governments, which will not easily share their powers.

Conclusion: Women as humans!

Lately, there have been obvious setbacks in the development. With the current regimes ruling, there are few opportunities for change. International organizations should continue putting pressure on these countries. This will hopefully create leeway for movement towards a fairer future for the women in Nicaragua and El Salvador. There is hope, lately several other Latin American countries, for example Argentina, has been expanding their abortion laws. Obviously, women are not lesser humans. Which is why their government must stop treating them as such!

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