In 2006, Nicaragua criminalized all abortions including pregnancies resulting from rape/incest or even when the woman’s life is in danger. It is one of only three countries in the western hemisphere to have such a strict ban on abortion, the other two are Chile and El Salvador.
This ban in Nicaragua is disappointing on a number of levels. Besides the obvious obstruction of human rights, it is enacted by a political party originally supported by feminists and secular leaders. In fact, the Sandista’s party planned to encourage comprehensive sex education in order to combat unplanned pregnancies from a prevention standpoint. Unfortunately, the church’s influence can be seen in the official education policy that emphasizes abstinence and morality rather than birth control and self-respect.
Currently, President Daniel Ortega returned to power after seeking out support from the Catholic Church. Promptly after his election win he threw his weight behind the ban on therapeutic abortions leading to its passage.
As with most policies that limit human rights, such as access to healthcare, it is poor and rural people that are most affected. Wealthy Nicaraguan women can fly to the U.S. to get safe abortions, while poor women are forced to live or die with their pregnancy.
Another disturbing trend is that organizations fighting to establish reproductive rights for Nicaragua’s women are being threatened. Nine leaders of the Autonomous Women’s Movement of Nicaragua (Moviemiento Autonomo de Mujeres) are being investigated for their involvement in assisting a 9-year old receive a therapeutic abortion after a probably rape.
However, many people are still working to advocate for the women of Nicaragua. Amnesty International spearheaded an effort to get 37,000 signatures and 6,000 postcards showing international support for lifting the ban in Nicaragua. These were turned over to the Sandinista party leaders and accepted by a representative of President Ortega. They were delivered by the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion.
Many other international groups have demanded further discussion on the issues of reproductive rights in Nicaragua including the United Nations, the European Union and Human Rights Watch.
There was a legal challenge to the abortion ban brought before Nicaraguan courts in 2007. However, the Supreme Court has yet to rule whether the ban is constitutional or not.