Killer Law

Last November, Nicaragua became the third country in the world, after Chile and El Salvador, to criminalize all abortions. There are no exceptions; not for rape, not for incest, not for threats to the life of the mother.

So far, this law has resulted in the deaths of at least 82 women. Rory Carroll reports for The Guardian:

Abortion has long been illegal in Nicaragua but there had been exceptions for “therapeutic” reasons if three doctors agreed there was a risk to the woman’s life. Those exceptions were no longer necessary, said the Nicaraguan Pro-Life Association, because medical advances obviated the need to terminate pregnancies. “The conditions that justified therapeutic abortion now have medical solutions,” says a spokesman. Pope Benedict XVI welcomed the ban but added that women should not suffer or die as a result. “In this regard, it is essential to increase the assistance of the state and of society itself to women who have serious problems during pregnancy.”

The “assistance” the state offers is to let women die. The article focuses on a young woman named María de Jesús González who was denied medical help for an ectopic pregnancy. These occur when the fertlized egg implants somewhere other than in the uturus, usually the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies occur from 1 in every 40 to 1 in every 100 pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancies have no chance of ending in a live birth. Eventually the growing fetus will cause an internal rupture in the mother, leading to bleeding, shock, and death. The developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.

González was told at the hospital that any doctor who terminated her pregnancy would face two to three years in jail and she, for consenting, would face one to two years. … What González did next was – when you understand what life in Nicaragua is like these days – utterly rational. She walked out of the hospital, past the obstetrics and gynaecological ward, past the clinics and pharmacies lining the avenues, packed her bag, kissed her aunts goodbye, and caught a bus back to her village. She summoned two neighbouring women – traditional healers – and requested that they terminate the pregnancy in her shack. Without anaesthetic or proper instruments it was more akin to mutilation than surgery, but González insisted. The haemhorraging was intense, and the agony can only be imagined. It was in vain. Maria died. “We heard there was a lot of blood, a lot of pain,” says Esperanza Zeledon, 52, one of the Managua aunts.

According to the Nicaraguan health ministry it would have been legal for the doctors to remove the embryo growing in González.

But such is the climate of fear and confusion that the protocols are widely ignored and misunderstood. The doctors who turned González away from the hospital in Managua thought it was illegal, as did medical staff the Guardian interviewed in Ocotal, González’s home town.

“The ban has people frightened. You could lose everything – that’s the first thing on your mind,” says Dr Arguello, a leading critic of the ban. So far there have been no prosecutions but many doctors are unwilling to take the risk on behalf of women who are often poor, uneducated and from a lower social class.

No one knows how many other women have died.

The Pope seemed to acknowledge an increased risk to women’s health but Nicaragua’s government has made no formal study of the law’s impact. Women’s rights organisations say their 82 documented deaths are the tip of the iceberg. The Pan-American Health Organisation estimates one woman per day suffers from an ectopic pregnancy, and that every two days a woman suffers a miscarriage from a molar pregnancy. That adds up to hundreds of obstetric emergencies per year.

Human Rights Watch, in a recent report titled Over Their Dead Bodies, cited one woman who urgently needed medical help, but was left untreated at a public hospital for two days because the foetus was still alive and so a therapeutic abortion would be illegal. Eventually she expelled the foetus on her own. “By then she was already in septic shock and died five days later,” said the doctor.

The Catholic News Agency reports that last month Pope Benedict XVI praised Nicaragua for its policies “respecting” human life.

During his remarks the Pope praised Nicaragua for “the position it takes on social questions in the international arena, especially as regards the theme of life, and in the face of no small amount of domestic and international pressure.”

The Holy Father said it was very “positive that last year the national assembly approved the revocation of therapeutic abortion,” and he affirmed the “need to increase the aid that state and society provide to women who have serious problems during pregnancy.”

American “pro life” organizations like Concerned Women for America also support the Nicaraguan abortion ban.

Shortly after the law was passed in November 2006, N.C. Aizenman wrote for the Washington Post:

Jazmina Bojorge arrived at Managua’s Fernando Vélez Paiz Hospital on a Tuesday evening, nearly five months pregnant and racked with fever and abdominal pain. By the following Thursday morning, both the pretty 18-year-old and the female fetus in her womb were dead.

The mystery of what happened during the intervening 36 hours might not ordinarily have catapulted Bojorge into the headlines of a nation with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the Western Hemisphere.

But a week before her death on Nov. 2, Nicaragua’s legislature had voted to ban all abortions, eliminating long-standing exceptions for rape, malformation of the fetus and risk to the life or health of the mother. Now, outraged opponents of the legislation have declared Bojorge its first victim.

“It’s clear that fear of punishment kept the doctors from doing what they needed to do to save her — which was to abort the pregnancy immediately,” said Juanita Jiménez of the Women’s Autonomous Movement, an advocacy group that is leading the campaign to reverse the ban. “This is exactly what we warned would happen if this law was passed. We’ve been taken back to the Middle Ages.”

So-called “right to life” advocates in the U.S. will tell you categorically that “There is no such thing as an abortion to save the life of the mother.” “Life of the mother” is not a valid exception, they say.

Of course, if ever their own sorry carcasses were about to be opened up by a couple of “traditional healers” without anesthesia in a last-ditch effort to avoid death by internal rupture and hemorrhage they might feel a bit differently.

Junk Email

I just got this —

You are invited to join this discussion group:

The Second Mexican-American War


This group is to discuss the forthcoming Second Mexican-American War. We acknowledge the following points:

1) America is being invaded by Mexico
2) Mexicans are aiding Islamic terrorists to sneak into the United States
3) Mexicans intend to reclaim the Southwestern United States

We also acknowledge that many of our leaders have committed treason and impeachable offenses by:

1) Refusing to secure the border
2) Supporting the “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” and the NAFTA Super-Highway, and thus undermining the independence and sovereignty of the United States
3) Refusing to deport illegal aliens
4) Catering to international corporations and international multicultural organizations at the expense of American wages, American interests, American security and American independence.

The Second Mexican American War is inevitable. Stop the invasion!

At this group we shall engage in polite scholarly discussions regarding when, if and how war with Mexico will take place.

To join, send an email to: [email address]

Reminds me a bit of the old John Birchers, updated.

Feel the Love II

Updating the last post– Tim Padgett writes for Time (web exclusive):

President George W. Bush shouldn’t have been too surprised by the angry — and ultimately violent — welcome he received Friday at the 4th Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina. After pledging during his 2000 election campaign to correct Washington’s indifference to Latin America, the president is viewed as having all but turned his back on the region after most Latin American capitals declined to back his invasion of Iraq. But Bush’s hemispheric cold shoulder has backfired: It created a political vacuum that has been largely filled by neo-leftists like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was expected to join tens of thousands of raucous demonstrators Friday marching through Mar del Plata to denounce Bush and his all-but-doomed efforts to forge a hemispheric free trade pact.

Far from being the mejor amigo he promised to be, Bush today is arguably more unpopular in Latin America than any U.S. president in history. In Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, a recent poll showed 64% have a poor or very poor opinion of him. Elsewhere in the region, Bush’s approval rating usually falls below 25%. Part of the problem is broad opposition to the Iraq war; another is the perception that Bush is a Monroe Doctrine throwback to heavy-handed U.S. interventionism in the region. That image caught fire after the Bush Administration was widely accused of backing a failed coup against Chavez in 2002 (a charge the White House denies). Fuel was added last summer when conservative televangelist Pat Robertson — a high-profile supporter of President Bush — publicly called for Chavez’s assassination. (Robertson has since apologized.) Chavez is a democratically elected President, but his close friendship with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, his own flirtations with autocratic government and his recently declared interest in acquiring nuclear technology have Washington bristling. As a result, the fiery Chavez and his growing number of supporters around the region remain vocally convinced that Bush is out to kill him.

Note this part about F.T.A.A.:

But Bush’s biggest south-of-the-border PR problem is economic. Even before the start of the November 4-5 Summit, devoted to combating poverty and creating jobs, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and other Latin nations banded together to nudge Washington’s Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposal off the agenda. The move, which has angered the Bush Administration, reflects growing skepticism in Latin America over the virtues of free-market reforms, which many believe have simply widened the chasm between rich and poor in a region that already displays the world’s worst disparities in wealth.

To be fair, a lot of the economic problems in Latin America are the result of bad decisions and corruption in Latin America going back to the time of the Conquistadors.

The article goes on to say that anti-Bush sentiment has sparked a neo-lefist revival in Latin America (way to go, Chimpy!).

Some on the Right Blogosphere noticed the protests and the fact Cindy Sheehan was there, somewhere–it’s not clear to me if she did much but show up. The rightie Gateway Pundit quotes Mexican President Vincente Fox as rebuking Chavez on F.T.A.A.

Mexican President Vicente Fox, a Bush ally, countered Chavez by saying a trade accord in the Americas will boost growth and should go ahead even if some countries refuse to join. Only about four or five nations are against it, and their opposition is “ideological,” Fox told reporters.

But Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela are the big guns, economically speaking, aren’t they?

It’s not just Latin Americans crabbing at Bush. He’s also taking potshots from Canada.

Free trade in the Americas would be a powerful antidote for poverty – if everyone played by the rules, Prime Minister Paul Martin said here Friday in a veiled shot at U.S. President George W. Bush.

As the Summit of the Americas got underway in this fortified seaside town, Martin said Canada fully supports the U.S. push for an expanded Free Trade Area of the Americas. But he made a point of raising the simmering softwood lumber fight between the U.S. and Canada, just before a private meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox.

“The fact is that President Fox, myself, President Bush, all of us believe strongly in the free trade of the Americas. But we know that it’s got to be based on rules – and rules that are listened to,” Martin said.

Rules? Bush thinks rules are for the little people.

Feel the Love

Latin Americans are greeting our president, in Argentina for the Summit of the Americas, with enthusiasm. The BBC reports:

Thousands of protesters chanting “Get out Bush” have thronged the streets of Mar del Plata, an Argentine beach town hosting the Summit of the Americas.

The US president and 33 other regional leaders are in town to discuss free trade and poverty, amid tight security. …

…The rally was held in a football stadium, after a mainly peaceful march though boarded-up streets.

Standing side by side with Argentine former football legend Diego Maradona, Mr[Hugo] Chavez told the crowd that the world’s eyes were upon them and the Americas.

Wearing a T-shirt accusing Mr Bush of war crimes, Maradona said: “Argentina is dignified. Let’s throw out Bush!”

Earlier protesters had surrounded a train that brought their comrades from Buenos Aires, among them Bolivian left-wing presidential candidate Evo Morales.

From CBC World News:

A crowd of 10,000 protesters chanting “Get out Bush!” swarmed the streets of this Argentine resort Friday, hours before the hemisphere’s leaders sat down to debate free trade, immigration and job creation.

Before dawn, thousands greeted a train bringing the last group of fellow demonstrators from Buenos Aires, including Bolivian presidential hopeful Evo Morales and soccer great Diego Maradona, who donned a T-shirt accusing U.S. President George W. Bush of war crimes.

Chanting “Fascist Bush! You are the terrorist!” the protesters hung from the engine and moved up the sides of the train, trying to shake hands with those inside.

Elisabeth Bumiller and Larry Rother report for the New York Times:

At a parallel “People’s Summit” in Mar del Plata on Thursday [see BBC photos], organized by a coalition of left-wing, indigenous and antiglobalization groups, American proposals on free trade also came in for criticism, as did Mr. Bush himself.

“We Said No and No Means No: No to Bush, No to F.T.A.A. and No to Repaying the Debt,” read one large banner at the conference, held in a group of tents and classrooms on the campus of a local university. Several thousand people attended.

“We’ve had enough of neo-liberalism and the damage it has inflicted on our societies,” said Juan Montenegro, who came from Buenos Aires to take part. “Bush is trying to destroy Iraq with bombs and guns and Latin America with an economic program that will rob us of our sovereignty.”

The “antisummit” began early in the week and is expected to culminate today in mass protest marches, led by Alfonso Pérez Esquivel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Diego Maradona, the soccer idol. Mr. Chávez, with a foot in both of the gatherings here, is expected to be the main orator at a closing protest rally to be held at the main soccer stadium.

“F.T.A.A.” stands for Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is a proposal to unite the economies of the Americas into a single free trade area. This is a long-standing proposal that was also supported by President Clinton. I admit I am not well versed in the pros and cons of this proposal; anyone who wants to editorialize about it in the comments is welcome to do so.

However, as I understand it this area would include the U.S. I bet most American voters have never heard of it. And I bet most American voters would be enormously skeptical of it. It’d bite if F.T.A.A. were approved in Latin America but rejected in the U.S., huh?

Michael Fletcher writes for the Sydney Morning Herald:

The Bush Administration had hoped the meeting would help revive stalled plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a zone that would stretch from Alaska to Argentina.

“From our point of view, the Free Trade Area of the Americas has defined the summit process,” said Thomas Shannon, the US assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere.

But that message was at odds with the sentiment in much of Latin America, where millions of people have yet to realise the promised benefits of democratic governments and free trade.

Across the region, half a dozen populist leaders have been elected in recent years, often supported by constituencies that blame US-backed economic policies, private investment and international trade for poverty and inequality.

It’s too soon to tell if the F.T.A.A. proposal will make any headway during the summit.

Marchela Sanchez of the Washington Post writes
that most people of Latin America are tired of being caught between warring economic theories, whether Bush’s or Chavez’s.

As titillating as these activities on the sidelines of the summit may become, they will only serve to distract from the popular concerns that bring together the 34 elected leaders of the Americas — namely, to strengthen democracy and reduce poverty through job creation.

Indeed, the average Latin American is much less concerned with protesting against Washington, the war or Bush than in keeping his job and seeing his economic situation improve. More than in a battle of ideas, he or she is engaged in a day-to-day struggle to succeed in a democratic system.

New economic, social and political experiments, like the kind Chavez is pushing, are not gaining a foothold in Latin America. After 10 years of polling, the Chilean firm Latinobarometro concluded last week that Latin Americans are sold on democracy as a way of life. And even though in the last three years popular approval of democracy has not budged from 53 percent, Latin Americans are not actively seeking out alternatives. In fact a large majority say market economies (63 percent) and the private sector (59 percent) are what will help their countries develop.

As Marta Lagos, head of Latinobarometro put it, “people in Latin America are no longer interested in buying the dreams offered by extreme ideologies.'” Rather, she said, “they want to buy refrigerators.”

Cindy Sheehan is in Argentina with the protesters, which appears to me to be a bad move on her part. Outside the U.S. leftist extremism can actually get extreme, and Sheehan could lose credibility in America if she becomes too closely tied to far left anti-Americanism abroad.

The Right Blogosphere hasn’t picked up on this yet, however, probably because at the moment they are having a high ol’ time making fun of France.

Anyway–Nedra Pickler writes for the AP that Bush is trying to improve America’s image in Latin America. Fat chance. Marcela Sanchez of WaPo writes,

More than the Iraq war, it is Bush’s failure to recognize the maturation of democracy south of the Rio Grande that has increased popular disapproval. Regional democracies, most of them in their third decade of existence, have grown beyond the simplicity of left-right, either-or choices. Still, Bush’s war against terror and his obsession with Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro suggest to Latin Americans that his administration’s frame of reference is still purely ideological and unevolved.

In other words, Bush’s Great White Father act is not winning ’em over. Maybe next time he’ll send Karen Hughes.