Thirteen-year-old Nicaraguan Dies in Childbirth

File photo: Nicaragua Investiga

HAVANA TIMES – On Saturday, July 31, Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health (Minsa) reported the death of a young teen from Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Coast. The young girl perished on July 30, after giving birth to a baby girl, reported Nicaragua Investiga.

According to the official statement, the girl was from the community of La Quinta, in the municipality of Pearl Lagoon. She presented “abundant post-partum bleeding”, the medical report said, and “measures were applied to control the hemorrhage.” However, the statement continued, she “went into severe shock, and was pronounced dead at 2:30 pm.”

According to Minsa the teen’s heart stopped (hypovolemic shock) due to a “post-partum hemorrhage for tearing of the uterus, plus uterine atony.” In other words, the uterus didn’t contract after the birth.

The authorities offered no further details, nor is it known if there were complications during the birth itself. They did indicate that the baby was born vaginally, “with healthy crying and a birth weight of 3,000 grams (6.6 lbs.)

High rate of teen pregnancies and a complete abortion ban

The Pan-American Health Organization has classified Nicaragua as one of the countries with the “highest rate of teen pregnancy”. Among regions as a whole, Central America and the Caribbean are in second place “after Africa, with approximately 100 pregnancies for every 1,000 adolescents.”

The Nicaraguan Penal Code establishes that all sexual relations with a child under 14 is classed as a rape and can be sanctioned with a jail sentence of 12 – 15 years, noted Nicaragua Investiga. However, these sanctions have rarely been applied, especially in the impoverished urban and rural communities.

Women’s and feminist movements have long pushed for greater enforcement of the laws against rape, femicide and sexual abuse. Instead, critics say, the police’s time and resources have been taken up in persecuting and jailing members of the opposition and peaceful dissenters.

Further, in the last year harsh laws against receiving money from outside the country have limited the efforts of independent grassroots women’s organizations to reach and educate at-risk teen girls in the poorer communities. Most of these organizations depended on solidarity grants from outside the country to continue their services.

The panorama for young girls who become pregnant is complicated by the fact that all abortions -even in rape cases or when the mother’s life is at risk–, have been banned in Nicaragua since 2006. This was the result of a deal that Daniel Ortega made with Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo [d. 2018]. Essentially, Ortega agreed to sponsor a blanket ban on abortions and in return the Cardinal agreed to support Ortega’s candidacy, something he had consistently opposed.

In 2017, Human Rights Watch printed a special report on the fallout from the prohibition on what are called “therapeutic abortions”. They noted: “Nicaragua’s total ban on abortion is putting women’s and girls’ health and lives at risk.”  The death of the unnamed little girl in Pearl Lagoon is tragic evidence of that fact.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.