Today, Nicaragua’s congress passed a complete ban on abortion. The ban offers no exceptions for women’s health, for victims of rape or incest-or even for women whose lives are at risk. By passing this outrageous ban Nicaragua has joined the ranks of Chile and El Salvador, the only countries in the world to have imposed total abortion bans in the last 20 years. It now awaits signature by the president in order to become law. Luisa Cabal, Director of the International Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights issued this statement in response:
“This movement backwards comes at a time when Nicaragua already has an extremely high rate of maternal mortality, largely due to illegal and unsafe abortion. Yet, instead of lawmakers acting to adopt measures that protect women, they have chosen to send the message that they don’t care if women die.
“This abortion ban blatantly violates the most essential human rights of women recognized in international treaties ratified by Nicaragua. The rights to life and health are threatened when women cannot undergo therapeutic abortions or are forced to resort to unsafe procedures. In 2001, we released a report, Persecuted: Political Process and Abortion Legislation in El Salvador, which examines the impact on women’s lives-and the human rights violations occurring-in El Salvador as a result of the total ban in place there. We know what happens when abortion is banned: women suffer.
“In addition, this abortion ban goes against global and regional trends, which are moving towards recognition that complete denial of abortion access violates women’s rights. In the Center’s case KL v. Peru in 2005, the U.N. Human Rights Committee ruled that the rights of a 17-year old Peruvian woman had been violated when health officials denied her a therapeutic abortion although her fetus carried a fatal abnormality. In March 2006, as a result of another case brought by the Center, the government of Mexico admitted that it violated the rights of a 13-year-old girl who became pregnant as a result of rape and was denied an abortion.
“These victories provide hope for Nicaragua’s women. The Center, in collaboration with local partners, will explore mechanisms through which to challenge Nicaragua’s ban, which violates women’s most essential human rights under international law.”