Sandinista Gov’t insists 12-year-old rape victim give birth

Therapeutic abortion debate turns another little girl's tragedy into a political football

A 12-year-old rape victim impregnated by her stepfather is under the Sandinista government’s protection at Bertha Calderón Hospital in Managua, where state medics are determined to deliver the baby and prevent her from having an abortion, according to Health Minister Sonia Castro.

Castro made the announcement Saturday afternoon alongside Catholic priest Neguib Eslaquit and Evangelical reverend Omar Duarte. The health minister said the young patient is nearly nine months pregnant, and that she’s receiving medical attention and spiritual guidance.

The young rape victim, whose identity is being protected, is the latest human drama in the on-going saga of Nicaragua’s criminalization of therapeutic abortion by politicians who seem insistent upon blurring the distinctions between church and state. The National Assembly outlawed therapeutic abortion—a life-saving measure to save a mother’s life in cases of high-risk pregnancies, or pregnancies resulting from rape and incest—on the eve of the 2006 elections, in an apparent effort by politicians to cater to the Catholic Church and win conservative votes.

The government upheld the decision in the new Penal Code a year later, making Nicaragua one of a handful of countries in the world to ban therapeutic abortion. In doing so, lawmakers reversed a centuries’ old guarantee for basic maternal healthcare.  

Castro, flanked a priest and a reverend, blamed the media for “manipulating” the situation. She said the media is “using this tragedy and putting at risk the dignity of this little girl and her mother” by exposing them to pain and humiliation.

“We are doing everything possible to save a human life,” she said, apparently without intended irony.

Reverend Duarte, speaking without a medical license, said the girl’s condition is “very stable.”

“We have asked God for everything to end well,” Duarte supplicated. “We can’t talk about abortion at this stage.”

“The most important thing is that they are making all necessary efforts to save the life of the mother and the child, because we remember that life belongs only to God,” Father Eslaquit added.

Rights activists argue that the right to life also belongs to the woman living it. They accuse the government of continuing to shamelessly confuse religious zeal with sound public policy and human rights.

“It is absolutely pathetic that the president and the first lady, in their quest for power and votes, are willing to play with the life and basic rights of women and girls,” said Maria Teresa Blandon, of the Nicaraguan feminist movement.

Blandon accuses the Sandinista government of violating the young rape victim’s right to health and a normal life by obligating her to raise the child of a rapist. “This is doubly traumatic for this young girl. They are re-victimizing her and this will have consequences for her all her life,” Blandon said.

The government admits the young girl’s pregnancy was caused by rape, but has not mentioned whether the stepfather has been arrested or will be charged for his criminal act.

For Blandon, the government’s behavior is purely cynical.

“The government is violating the human rights of women just to win votes, and that makes them an illegitimate government,” Blandon charged.

  • chachooga

    If you are pro abortion, this is not the case to present your point of view with. This young girl was horribly violated, but she is nine months pregnant. There is no way to convince anyone that having an abortion at 9 months pregnant would be less traumatic then having the baby.

    If you are going to say shame on Nicaragua Government using this young girl for politics, well then Shame on the Pro Abortion group for doing the same.

  • Louis

    Absolutely agree with you Chachooga. I’m not a doctor, but common sense tells me that terminating an unwanted pregnancy at 9 months would be very traumatic -physically and psychologically- for this girl.

    The fact of the matter is that this young girl’s tragedy is being used for political purposes, whatever your stance is on the issue. It is interesting that this case is getting a spotlight weeks before the election. I would hate to think that this was carefully timed by the government to stir up emotions in those “undecided” evangelical/catholic/conservatives hoping to catch their vote.

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  • Rachel

    Tim, thank you for writing this important and disturbing article. Please continue to post articles about Nicaraguan women’s struggles for human rights and dignity. Happy International Women’s Day!

  • Rev Deborah

    I think most of us would not say we are Pro abortion…we are prochoice and of course you would and could not abort a nine month fetus. but the issue here is that she is under the protection of the government so they have kidnapped or she is in a medical bed in prison or what. the right to choice includes many issues and certainly this girl belongs with her mother and protected from the government and the views of a priest telling how sinful she is….This child should have been allowed to abort the fetus 8 months ago when it would have been safe. A young girl delivering a baby is extremely high risk not to mention tramatizing and also a life sentence of a baby taking care of a baby…it is a disgrace that other options have not been open to this poor girl who should be playing with dolls not real babies

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  • NYC Mike

    What does it matter if she was 9 months pregnant or 1 month pregnant??? Either way, the government wouldn’t have allowed her to get an abortion. Abortion is illegal in Nicaragua even if the mother’s LIFE HANGS IN THE BALANCE. So sick!

    WHAT HAPPENED TO THE STEPFATHER???!

    Was this sick vile man ever even arrested and questioned?

    Sigh.