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Project August 10, 2013

Maternal Health in Nicaragua and El Salvador

Author:
Image by Eleanor Klibanoff. Nicaragua, 2013.

Nicaragua and El Salvador share a similar language, history and culture. And when Nicaragua banned therapeutic abortions in 2006, it joined El Salvador on the short list of countries that criminalize abortion. Since then, both countries have had to deal with a maternal healthcare crisis as women and young girls are denied access to abortions under any circumstance.

These neighboring Central American countries stand at the intersection of revolution and religion, governed by leftist leaders but still under the control of the powerful Catholic and Evangelical churches. Politicians, religious leaders and activists, both foreign and local, frequently use policies to advance their own agendas on both sides of the issue.

Meanwhile, women are undertaking dangerous back-alley abortions, sacrificing their health and safety as they circumvent the law. Doctors are forced to report on patients who show evidence of terminated pregnancies and will often find themselves investigated if they provide life-saving medical treatment that endangers the life of a fetus. The Nicaraguan government has reported that the number of girls under the age of 14 giving birth, often as a result of rape, has increased by 48 percent since the ban.

While these countries begin to work on maternal healthcare issues, they continue to enforce the laws. This project tells the story of those most affected by the complete abortion ban in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

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