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.