[JURIST] Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos [official website, in Spanish] has signed a law that bans all abortion [JURIST report] and eliminates a longstanding exception for the health of the mother. Abortion has long been illegal in Nicaragua, though tempered by the medical necessity exception. Opponents of the complete abortion ban had hoped that Bolanos would reject the bill because it did not raise criminal penalties for women from six years in prison to the thirty years he had previously sought. Nicaragua now joins Chile, El Salvador, and at least 32 other countries in the world which have adopted similar measures.
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. The New York Times has more.