The Nicaraguan legislature voted yesterday to outlaw all abortions, making it the third country in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw abortion without exception. The legislation was approved 52-0, with nine abstentions and 29 legislators not voting. The legislation must still be signed by Nicaraguan president Enrique Bolanos, who is strongly against abortion rights and favors increasing penalties for illegal abortions; without his veto, the ban will take effect in 30 days. Nicaragua currently allows abortion if a woman's life is in danger or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Legislators may have feared opposing the bill so close to the upcoming election on November 5 because of the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church, which pushed heavily for the passage of the legislation, according to Reuters. While church leaders were able to sit in on the vote, women’s rights activists were physically barred from entering. Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the National Assembly the day of the vote, and legislators were asked by the international community to consider the ramifications for women’s human rights.
"We are outraged that leaders who claim to stand for the poor and marginalized would vote in favor a law that condemns women to die like this. Women's live[s] are worth more," said Marta María Blandón, director of Ipas Central America, an organization working to end unsafe abortion practices around the world. It is estimated 32,000 women undergo illegal abortion every year in Nicaragua, most unsafe, according to the New York Times. According to Ipas, the Nicaraguan Women’s Autonomous Movement plan to file a suit challenging the constitutionality of the extreme ban.
Media Resources: Reuters 10/27/06; New York Times 10/27/06; Ipas press release 10/26/06; Associated Press 10/26/06