— Late yesterday, the Center for Reproductive Rights learned that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had released a statement declaring that Nicaragua’s recently passed abortion ban is contrary to international law and threatens women’s human rights. This statement, addressed to the Nicaraguan government, was released prior to the ban becoming law and is the first ever issued by the Commission on abortion. It comes after years of legal advocacy by the Center, and follows two other victories in abortion cases in the region in the last year. The Inter-American Commission is the primary body that monitors human rights in the Americas.
“Governments considering violating women’s rights by banning abortion will be called to task. The world is watching, the international community is watching, and human rights bodies are watching,” said Luisa Cabal, Director of the International Legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has put governments on notice and has sent a direct message to Nicaragua that it is violating women’s most essential rights and putting their lives at risk.” The Dominican Republic and Panama are currently considering bills that would further restrict abortion.
For years the Center for Reproductive Rights has been advocating with the Commission to build the understanding that banning abortion violates women’s human rights. This statement comes on the heels of two recent victories in the region. 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 before the Inter-American Commission, the government of Mexico admitted that it had violated the rights of a 13-year-old girl who became pregnant as a result of rape and was denied an abortion.
“This statement is pivotal,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, the Center’s Legal Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean. “After years of advocating tirelessly to advance justice for women in the region, we’re very pleased to see the impact we’ve had and can continue to have. We commend the Commission for acknowledging that access to abortion is central to preserving women’s health and human dignity.” The Center, in collaboration with local partners, is exploring legal measures to challenge Nicaragua’s ban.