Dominican Republic: Pregnant Teen Dies After Concerns Over Anti-abortion Law Delays Chemo Treatment
Article 37 of the Dominican Republic’s constitution says ‘the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death,’ but one of the law’s proponents says it wasn’t meant to apply in cases like this.
A pregnant teenager died Friday after her chemotherapy treatment for acute leukemia was delayed due to the Dominican Republic's anti-abortion laws.
The 16-year-old, whose identity has not been released due to her age, died from complications related to the disease at Semma Hospital in Santo Domingo, Dr. Antonio Cabrera, the hospital's legal representative, told CNN.
The girl's case garnered international attention over the past several weeks as doctors debated whether they could give the teen chemotherapy, fearing that they would face prosecution if the treatment terminated her pregnancy.
Members of the Dominican Ministry of Health, the Dominican Medical College, the hospital and the patient's family spoke for several days before deciding on the treatment, according to CNN.
The patient, who was 13 weeks pregnant, started receiving chemotherapy 20 days after she was admitted to the hospital.
Her body, however, did not respond to the treatment and rejected a blood transfusion.
She suffered a miscarriage early Friday and then entered cardiac arrest. Doctors were not able to revive her.
The teen's mother, Rosa Hernandez, has accused doctors of putting the law before her daughter's health.
"My daughter's life is first. I know that [ABORTION]is a sin and that it goes against the law . . . but my daughter's health is first," Hernandez told CNN.
Hernandez said she pleaded with medical officials to make an exception for her daughter.
"They have killed me, I'm dead, dead. I'm nothing," Hernandez added. "She was the reason for my existence. I no longer live. Rosa has died. Let the world know that Rosa is dead."
The teen's story has reignited the debate over the country's strict abortion ban, found in Article 37 of the Dominican Constitution. Article 37 was passed in 2009.
The law states that "the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death."
Prior to the girl's death, Pelegrin Castillo, one of the writers of Article 37, said that the abortion ban was not designed to prevent the teen's doctors from administering chemotherapy.
"It's an artificial debate," Castillo told CNN. "What we have clearly said is that in this case doctors are authorized by the constitution to treat the patient. They don't have to worry about anything. They have the mandate of protecting both lives."
By Christine Roberts
August 19, 2012