Amnesty International has released a hard-hitting report detailing the shocking consequences of Nicaragua’s absolute ban on abortion. Introduced in July 2008, Nicaragua’s revised Penal Code criminalises all forms of abortion, regardless of circumstance, and stipulates prison sentences for women and girls seeking abortions and the medical professionals who provide them. There are no exceptions: the ban applies in situations where continued pregnancy risks the life or health of the woman or girl, and when the pregnancy is the result of rape.
The new law is endangering the lives of women and girls across the country, contributing to increased maternal mortality and is preventing health professionals practicing effective medicine.
Amnesty International’s report ‘The total abortion ban in Nicaragua: Women’s lives and health endangered, medical professionals criminalised’, reveals the devastating impact of the ban: young girls suffering sexual violence at the hands of family members, forced to carry the resulting pregnancies to term; pregnant women denied life-saving medical treatment for cancer, malaria, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses because of potential risks to the foetus; doctors unable to treat women experiencing miscarriage because it is often impossible to distinguish between spontaneous and induced abortion.
Speaking after a visit to Nicaragua to discuss the abortion ban, Amnesty’s Deputy Secretary General Kate Gilmore said: ‘Nicaragua’s ban of therapeutic abortion is a disgrace. It is a human rights scandal that ridicules medical science and distorts the law into a weapon against the provision of essential medical care to pregnant girls and women.’
She continued: ‘There’s only one way to describe what we have seen in Nicaragua: sheer horror…Children are being compelled to bear children. Pregnant women are being denied essential, including life saving, medical care.’
Amnesty International is urging the Nicaraguan authorities to:
• Immediately repeal the law that bans all forms of abortion.
• Guarantee safe and accessible abortion services for rape victims and women whose lives or health would be at risk from the continuation of pregnancy.
• Protect the freedom of speech of those who speak out against the law and offer comprehensive support to the women and girls affected by the law.