Nicaragua outlaws abortion even when mother's life is in danger
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (CNS) – The Nicaraguan legislature has amended the country's penal code to prohibit abortion even in cases where the mother's life is in danger.
The measure, passed Oct. 26, makes Nicaraguan legislation on abortion among the strictest in Latin America. Before the new law, abortion was permitted in the case of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.
The Nicaraguan bishops, along with evangelical church leaders, had been pushing for a total ban on abortion for some time. On Oct. 6, the churches' leaders sponsored a pro-life march in Managua and demanded that the legislature close the gaps in the existing law.
At the march, Bishop Juan Mata Guevara, president of the bishops' commission for life and the family, said any form of direct abortion is an intrinsically censurable act.
Catholic Church leaders had originally asked for penalties of up to 20 years for women who have abortions and doctors who perform them. However, the legislature did not raise the six-year penalties already established for nontherapeutic abortions.
Women's groups and doctors strongly oppose the new law, saying the legislature passed it to gain favor with church leaders before the Nov. 5 presidential election.
"It's the first time that abortion has become an electoral issue," said Marta Blandon, director of the Central American office of Ipas, a U.S.-based reproductive rights group.
Magali Quintana, a member of the Nicaraguan chapter of Catholics for a Free Choice, called the law a death sentence for any woman who has health complications during pregnancy.
"We hold the Catholic hierarchy responsible for the next maternal death in this country that could have been avoided," said Quintana.
Women's groups said the new law would increase the number of illegal and unsafe abortions in the country.
Doctors also oppose the new law, saying it is unconstitutional and restricts their ability to practice professionally.
Dr. Oscar Flores Mejia, a member of the Nicaraguan Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics, said its doctors planned to ask the Nicaraguan Supreme Court to declare the new law illegal.
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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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