Talking about abortion

Bondehus i Amparo

Next week the Nicaragua women´s movement starts a campaign for women´s right to life during pregnancy. It reminds me of a conversation I had in October 2006 with three Nicaraguan farmers about the then pending ban on so called therapeutic abortion, or abortion when necessary to safe the life of the mother.

(NB: The picture is a stock photo).

We are visiting a farm way back yonder in peasant country. At first I am in the common room talking with the wife, whom I will call Carmen:

– I am against this law (permitting therapeutic abortion, ed) being approved, she says. – The priests say it can be misused, that it will open up for anybody being able to get an abortion.

– Abortion is very hard, she explains.

– The priest showed us a movie. You could see the head of the phoetus moving to avoid the scalpel, as if it knew it was in danger. First the feet were sliced off, then the legs and at last the head. It was terrible to watch.

– Also it´s a sin. The bishops have declared it so, and you have take that into consideration, too. It´s a mortal sin, they say.

– Anyway, anybody can get contraceptives now a days, so you should accept the consequences.

– But if you are very sick, or the baby is deformed, then it´s OK, in my opinion.

Love

When I ask what she thinks about abortion after a rape, she says:

– I don´t think you can get pregnant after a rape, if you struggle, if you shout and resist. If there is no emotion, no love, you can´t get pregnant. What do you think?

– Well, I do remember the case of the two girls aged nine and ten, they got pregnant, but that was a case of misuse at home for a long time. How do you think you can get pregnant that young? Here in the village the girls don´t begin to menstruate until they are 14 or 15…

Murder is murder, but

Doña Carmens husband comes in from the field and gives his contribution:

– It is a crime and it must be punished, he says.

– If you kill a child… he says and has to stop to swallow, before he can go on:

– We saw a movie, it was terrible to watch, how the instrument slices the baby in pieces. This crime is murder just like killing anybody else.

But Doña Carmen asks her husband: – And if the mother is sick, and the medicine that will save the mother will kill the child?

– Well, in that case, you have to consider whose life is of most value, he answers. – If the child must die to save the mother, or the mother to save the child.

– If the mother has cancer and will die anyway, you don´t gain anything killing the child, do you? But if the mother leaves four orphans, then you have to consider that, to: the life to be against the lives that already are.

OK to save the mother

Doña Carmens kid sister, who lives and works in the capital, joins the conversation:

– Well, on this point I must disagree with the Sandinista Front. If it is to save the life of the mother, then I think it should be OK.

(The Sandinista Front voted for the ban later in October, even though it meant that the party leadership had to twist arms on several members of parliament. By the way, all three of these campesinos are Sandinistas “until death”, as the saying goes.)

Thoughts

This conversation leaves me with several thoughts:

  • Doña Carmen doesn´t realize that this is not about stopping a new initiative, but about revoking an existing law from 1893, that the Church has decided must go away.
  • The Catholic Church has apparently executed a very heavy handed propaganda campaign among it´s faithfull, with sermons and movie showings in Church. I have s elsewhere since confirmed my suspicion that the movie is from the North American Right to Life movement.
  • How rape victims´ rights are complicated by assumptions in peasant culture about birth, life and death, where pregnancy is a question of love, not just biology.
  • That alle three campesinos in reality argue FOR therapeutic abortion, two of them without knowing it. They have been misled.
  • Like many times before, I am struck by how nuanced and thoughtful these so called “ignorant”, “primitive” and very religious farmers discuss a sensitive matter. They have been close to life and death every day of their lives and are fully capable of weighing the moral, ethical and practical aspects of childrens´ and womens´right to life, orphans´ right to a mother, contraceptives, and the Church´s threats of hell. If they are adequately informed of the facts, that is. I wish that progressives at home in Denmark could discuss, for example, Islamic politicians scarves at the same high level.
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