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Dominican Republic abortion ban stops treatment for pregnant teen with cancer

In the Dominican Republic, a ban on abortion is preventing a teenage girl from receiving treatment for a life-threatening disease.

At the Semma Hospital in the captial city of Santo Domingo, a 16-year-old girl is dying of acute leukemia. Doctors say the girl, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy, needs an aggressive chemotherapy treatment. But there's one problem: the teenager is nine weeks pregnant and treatment would very likely terminate the pregnancy, a violation of Dominican anti-abortion laws.

Rosa Hernandez, the girl's mother, is trying to convince doctors and the Dominican government to make an exception so that her daughter's life can be saved. "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 said.

According to Article 37 of the Dominican constitution, "the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death." Dominican courts have interpreted this as a strict mandate against abortion. Article 37, passed in 2009, also abolished the death penalty.

Turkish women rally against plans to restrict access to abortion Miguel Montalvo, the director of the bioethics council that rules on the application of the law, says the council is leaning toward allowing the treatment. "At the end of the day the patient may decide for himself or herself. In this case, the family may decide what's more convenient for the patient," Montalvo said.

Women's and human rights groups are outraged, saying the girl should have received chemotherapy immediately.

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TAGGED: HUMAN RIGHTS


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