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Nicaragua bans all abortions

Sophie Arie / London Telegraph | October 27 2006

Nicaragua has passed a law banning all abortions, even for rape victims and women who risk dying in childbirth, in a move backed both by conservative and left wing politicians eager to win Catholic votes a week before a presidential election.

Under the new law, which will go into effect in 30 days unless it is vetoed by President Enrique Bolanos, doctors who carry out abortions on rape victims or women who could die at childbirth will face a four-to-eight-year jail sentence. The women will face the same penalty.

Nicaragua's powerful Roman Catholic Church and the ruling Liberal Party had promoted the bill and 25 members of the left-wing Sandinista party joined conservatives to approve it, although some sent their aides to cast the vote rather than do it themselves.

The party's 13 other lawmakers stayed away from the session, where the bill was passed in a 52-0 vote.

Only two other Latin American countries, Chile and El Salvador, have a similar blanket ban.

Hundreds of people protested outside the National Assembly in the capital, Managua, on Wednesday night, saying the law would be a death sentence for the some 400 women who suffer ectopic pregnancies in Nicaragua each year. In an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilised egg develops outside the uterus.

"They are forcing women and girls to die. They are not pro-life, they are pro-death," said protester Xiomara Luna.

Human rights groups warned the new law would encouraging illegal abortion which already takes a heavy toll in Nicaragua.

The Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, a former Cold War foe of the United States, was thought to have fallen into line to avoid alienating church leaders ahead of the Nov 5 election.

The latest polls suggest Mr Ortega, who led a 1979 revolution and fought a civil war against US-backed Contra rebels throughout the 1980s, may make a comeback although it is not certain he will win in the first round of voting.

When Mr Ortega was in power, his government reaffirmed the right to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or if three doctors stated a woman's life was at risk.


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