On Tuesday 5th October, a group of women delivered a petition with over 37,000 signatures demanding the restoration of therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua.
The signatures were collected in Europe by Amnesty International and were handed over along with a sample of 6,000 postcards sent in by AI activists acting in solidarity with the Central American country.
In Latin America, abortion is only legal in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico City. With the exception of Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua, where abortion is illegal under any circumstances, in the rest of the countries in the region “therapeutic” abortion is legal in certain cases, such as rape, incest, fetal malformation or risk to the mother’s life.
The group responsible for delivering the signatures at the offices of the governing Sandinista party, the Strategic Group for the Decriminlization of Therapeutic Abortion, told Spanish language news agency EFE they hoped “President Ortega takes measures…to comply with the recommendations of international entities that have ordered the Nicaraguan state to adjust legislation regarding abortion to be able to save women’s lives.”
One of the group’s leaders, Wendy Flores, added that in Nicaragua women had died because “abortion (is) prohibited, (and) by being denied access to health services” and she accused the government of not releasing data about such deaths.
During Ortega’s successful 2006 electoral campaign, the Nicaraguan Congress heard the petitions of Catholic and Protestant churches and prohibited therapeutic abortion, which had previously been legally permitted for more than a century in cases where the mother’s life was in danger.
The Physicians’ Association of Nicaragua, women’s groups, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and the European Union, all criticized the 2006 decision and demanded a broader discussion of the matter.
A 2007 legal challenge to the constitutionality of the abortion ban is yet to be ruled on by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court.