Earlier this month, A 16-year old pregnant girl in the Dominican Republic died after being denied an abortion under the country’s constitutional ban thereon. Turley reports:
The Dominican Republic’s church-inspired ban on all abortions has cost the life of a pregnant 16-year-old according to her mother, Rosa Hernandez. The teen, who suffered from leukemia, was unable to undergo life-saving chemotherapy until it was too late. The DR’s ban prevented a therapeutic abortion of the 13 week fetus as doctors were unwilling to make an exception.
To make matters worse, the girl miscarried days prior, but died from complications related to her untreated cancer.
The ban, under Article 37 of the Dominican Constitution, has of course been heavily criticized by the medical community:
In 2009,the Dominican Gynecology and Obstetrics Society warned that enacting Article 37 would lead to more maternal deaths.
And now, unfortunately, Ms. Hernandez’s daughter’s lifeless body is just another data point confirming the DGOS’s 2009 warning. And of course, as is usually the case for this sort of thing, the child died along with her, likely due to the immense physical stress that the cancer placed her body under, rendering her system incapable of nurturing the fetus.
None of this should be surprising to anyone who pays attention to data. There is a consistent correlation between maternal death rates and jurisdictional access to abortion. Earlier this year in Mississippi, a state legislator bragged that he and his colleagues had "literally stopped abortion" in the state. Unsurprisingly, Mississippi also has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. The Nat’l Institute of Health’s journal of Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology noted in 2009 that unsafe abortions account for 13% of all maternal deaths. Furthermore, 97% of these unsafe abortions occur in countries where access to abortion is legally restricted. Dr. Lisa B. Haddad notes in the link above that “every 8 minutes a woman in a developing nation will die of complications arising from an unsafe abortion.” As I’ve said in the past: when access to abortion is restricted, women die.
Eleanor Cooney, in her excellent piece, "The Way It Was," described the dramatic effect of expanded legal access to abortion after Roe v. Wade, recalling the remarks of a healthcare practitioner who cleaned up the human wreckage left behind by botched abortions:
[I]n The Worst of Times, a collection of interviews with women, cops, coroners, and practitioners from the illegal abortion era… a man who assisted in autopsies in a big urban hospital, starting in the mid-1950s, describes the many deaths from botched abortions that he saw. “The deaths stopped overnight in 1973.” He never saw another in the 18 years before he retired. “That,” he says, “ought to tell people something about keeping abortion legal.”
Yes. It ought to. But unfortunately for Rosa Hernandez’s daughter, the message didn’t get out in time. One can only hope that her death will motivate a change in the law in the Dominican Republic, and hope that the next person in her shoes does not face the same dilemma.
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