Thursday, July 26, 2012

16-year-old girl in Dominican Republic not given chemotherapy because of abortion ban

Reproductive rights has become a battlefield in Latin America in recent years, with some victories for women and unfortunately too many for the forces of reaction.

This girl's case is a tragic illustration of the consequences for real people's lives when the Catholic Right gets its way:

At the Semma Hospital in the captial city of Santo Domingo, a 16-year-old girl is dying of acute leukemia. Doctors say the girl, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy, needs an aggressive chemotherapy treatment. But there's one problem: the teenager is nine weeks pregnant and treatment would very likely terminate the pregnancy, a violation of Dominican anti-abortion laws.

One of the people responsible for this travesty claims that the doctors who fear giving the girl chemotherapy should not, as the treatment is legal:

Pelegrin Castillo, one of the architects of Article 37, says the constitutional ban does not prevent doctors from administering the treatment. It does, however, prevent them from practicing an abortion in order to treat the patient with chemotherapy.

"It's an artificial debate," Castillo said. "What we have clearly said is that in this case doctors are authorized by the constitution to treat the patient. They don't have to worry about anything. They have the mandate of protecting both lives."

But this appears to be disingenuous, and the "mandate of protecting both lives" nonsense makes the problem plain. (If anyone doubts the overwhelming influence of the Vatican on this article, note the distinction between an "accidental" and an "intentional" termination.)

There are - it appears unconfirmed - reports that they have begun chemotherapy; if true, this should have happened much sooner. People can only hope that the delay hasn't made a difference to her recovery. The girl's mother and women's rights groups have reignited debate about the murderous abortion ban. Hopefully some measure of justice will come from their efforts in the near future.

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