P.O. Box 9990
Chapel Hill, NC 27515
Does it really matter whether women have access to safe and legal abortion services?
It made a difference to Esperanza, a 24-year-old university student from a middle-class family in Nicaragua. She was six-weeks pregnant when she began feeling violently ill. Instead of receiving treatment immediately, she was referred from hospital to hospital for an ultrasound because health-care providers are required by law to check for fetal viability before they can provide treatment and many health centers do not have ultrasound machines. Esperanza died from an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus) - the first woman in seven years to do so in Nicaragua.
Esperanza's life, and the lives and health of many other women, might have been saved if doctors had not been afraid of possible legal consequences when treating pregnant women.
Restrictive abortion laws affect all aspects of women's reproductive health care. Nicaragua's abortion laws have harmed women with pregnancy-related complications and emergencies unrelated to abortion. Doctors who are wary of facing punishment often hesitate to provide obstetric services that may actually be legal. In some cases, this hesitation can result in delays that cause permanent damage to women's fertility; in others, it may result in women like Esperanza being transferred to other hospitals without receiving treatment.
Ipas works in Nicaragua and around the globe to make reproductive health care available to the women who need it and to make sure the stories of Esperanza, and countless others are heard.