Complete bans on abortion are not in the interests of anyone except those wishing to push a religious agenda or score political points. The latest case to make the news and highlight how such a ban can negatively affect women comes from the predominately Roman Catholic Dominican Republic, where the 2010 constitution specifically bans abortion in all cases.
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.
The treatment may ultimately go ahead.
Miguel Montalvo, the director of the bioethics council that rules on the application of the law, says the council is leaning toward allowing the treatment. “At the end of the day the patient may decide for himself or herself. In this case, the family may decide what’s more convenient for the patient,” Montalvo said.
The key words here are ‘leaning towards’, while they should be ‘we fully accept the medical recommendations and the wishes of the family. Of course, not everyone supports the status quo:
Lilliam Fondeur, a women’s rights activist, complains that conservative politics is preventing necessary treatment to save the teenager’s life.
“How can it be possible that so much time is being wasted? That the treatment hasn’t begun yet because they’re still meeting, trying to decide if she has the right to receive the treatment to save her life — that’s unacceptable,” Fondeur said.
In this instance, even the church is making a slight concession to the pressure:
Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez, who is responsible for the change in the Constitution so that it now bans abortion regardless that the health of the mother be at risk, went public to favor that physicians give priority to save the life of the teenager who suffers from cancer and would need chemotherapy. The chemotherapy would be lethal to the health of the 10-week old fetus. “Her situation can be saved, but we do not agree to making the abortion directly,” he said as reported in Listin Diario. “The most that can be done is try to save the 16-year old girl, and if as a consequence the creature dies, then we have not directly killed the creature,” he said after mass at the Cathedral yesterday. Art. 37 of the 2010 Constitution established: “The right to life is inviolable from conception to death.”
The same article shares the good news that indicates that the treatment has begun.
I have no idea about the type of cancer or treatment options for this girl, but for many types of cancer, the sooner the better. There is also no information about whether her prognosis is different if the pregnancy is terminated first or if the chemotherapy provides the termination. There is also no information if the Cardinal or the bioethics committee has that information either. The cardinal in particular doesn’t seem to care. As long as the abortion is not a separate procedure, it’s OK.
Decisions on appropriate treatments need to be made through medical consultation. Bureaucrats and religious leaders would have no say in the matter at all. The solution is quite simple: the state and religion have no place in the uteri of women.