This week, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a clear and urgent message to Nicaragua: adolescents must have access to safe, legal, and confidential sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion. CRC made these recommendations in response to advocacy by the Center and other groups during its 55th session in Geneva, during which it reviewed Nicaragua’s compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Center Highlights Harmful Impact of Nicaragua’s Abortion Ban Shortly before the review took place, the Center submitted a shadow letter to CRC highlighting the dire reproductive health crisis in Nicaragua, which has been made even worse by the government’s blanket ban on abortion. Nicaragua has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, and adolescent girls between 15 and 19 account for a quarter of all births. Unsurprisingly, the abortion ban hasn’t deterred women and adolescents from terminating their pregnancies, only forced them to turn to dangerous methods that put their lives and health at risk. As a result, unsafe abortion is currently the leading cause of maternal deaths in the country. Adolescent girls are also adversely affected by the blanket abortion ban because they are more likely to develop dangerous complications during pregnancy and need life-saving therapeutic abortions. Nicaragua’s law, however, doesn’t make exceptions even in those instances. Sexual Violence and HIV/AIDS Also Pose Threat to Adolescents In addition to unsafe abortion, our letter called attention to pervasive sexual violence against young girls and adolescents and the rapid increase in HIV/AIDS rates among young people. Two-thirds of single, sexually active adolescents in Nicaragua report having an unmet need for contraception. Children’s Rights Committee Calls for Better Access to Contraception and Safe Abortion In its concluding observations, CRC expressed deep concern about the blanket abortion ban and the rates of HIV/AIDS among adolescents. Echoing many of the key points we made in our shadow letter, it urged Nicaragua to ensure that sexual and reproductive health information, contraception, and safe abortion are widely available to adolescents. Moving forward, we will use CRC’s recommendations in our advocacy strategy for Nicaragua.