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Nicaragua lawmakers approve unqualifed abortion ban

[JURIST] Nicaraguan lawmakers voted Thursday to prohibit abortions [JURIST news archive] for any reason in the country, including procedures to save the life of a pregnant woman. The measure eliminates a long-standing medical necessity exception to the country's anti-abortion laws. Nicaragua [US State Dept. backgrounder] has a large Roman Catholic population and the church assisted in drafting the bill, which has been criticized by international human rights groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website] and Ipas [advocacy website], which claim the number of illegal abortions in the country will increase. Medical practitioners in Nicaragua have been split on the issue, with some arguing that medical science has progressed to the point where a woman's life will not be harmed if the fetus is brought to term, while others claim the new law will discourage doctors from performing life-saving procedures if they become necessary for the mother.

Countries including Finland and Sweden, which provide millions of dollars in funding to the poor country, wrote to Nicaraguan legislators this week urging them to oppose the bill. Nicaraguan citizens, however, have voiced strong acceptance of the law, and all but one of the four candidates in the November 5 presidential election are supporting it. The bill now goes to Nicaraguan president for signature, and if signed, Nicaragua will join Chile, El Salvador, and at least 32 other countries in the world which have adopted similar measures. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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