Nicaragua’s Abortion Law and the Moral Cost of Saving Lives

Regardless of where you stand on questions about the permissibility of abortion, the nature of the debate is much less polarised than it would seem.  Pro-choice types are perfectly capable of admitting that abortions are matters of regret in their own terms; pro-lifers, overwhelmingly, will admit that there are times when the termination of a pregnancy is the least awful of several awful options.  Thus, for example, the Catholic church is willing to say that abortions may be permissible if the mother’s life is in danger: if, that is, the foetus is an “innocent threat”.

It’s only some pro-lifers who would hold that all abortions are wrong and ought to be forbidded.  Some – but a significant some.  Because that’s the position of the current law in Nicaragua, which, since 2006, has forbidden all terminations of pregnancy – no ifs, no buts.  The possibility has always been that this law would, in effect, put certain medical treatments out of the reach of at least some women at least some of the time; and this possibility has been realised.

Amalia is pregnant.  She also happens to have cancer.

First diagnosed with cancer many years ago, Amalia was treated and went into remission.  She moved on and lived her life.  She had a daughter, now 10 years old, for whom she wants to stay alive.

In the first week of January, she was hospitalized and after testing was diagnosed with metastatic cancer for which her doctor stated aggressive chemotherapy and radiation would be needed to save her life. 

However, because the chemotherapy might affect or lead to the death of the fetus, no doctor will treat her because they fear the consequences of a law that leads to imprisonment for doctors who even deign to think that women like Amalia – merely an incubator under Nicaraguan law – have the right to be treated as aggressively as they would a man.

There’s not much more that can be said here, is there?

 

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