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Rights group urges revision of Nicaragua absolute abortion ban

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] on Monday called on Nicaragua to end its total ban on abortions [report, PDF; press release], saying that the lack of an exception for the mother's health has caused numerous deaths. AI also called for the country to eliminate severe criminal punishments for those who seek or perform abortions, saying that the penalties would often prevent women from receiving even non-abortion medical care. It also called for an exception allowing abortions in the cases of rape or incest. The group said that ban forces obstetricians to choose between medically necessary procedures and the law, and that it violates the UN Convention Against Torture, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [texts] and other treaties signed by the country:

Amnesty International considers the complete ban on abortion to be a serious breach of Nicaragua’s obligations to protect, respect and fulfil the human rights of women and girls both under its own Constitution and international treaties to which it is a party. The revision of the penal code is a retrogressive measure under international law and places Nicaragua at odds with proven public health policy.

Laws which have serious implications for the right to health and life of women and girls should be based on medical evidence and public health experience. It is clear that these laws are not. Women human rights defenders have been subjected to legal harassment and accused of the public defence of a crime (apología del delito) for campaigning for therapeutic abortion. This legal harassment has caused some fear on the part of others, such as doctors and nurses, and discouraged them from becoming too actively involved in campaigning on the issue. This has further stifled informed public debate and discussion around the implications of the law.

The absolute ban on abortions ban was first passed in 2006, when it was signed into law after being passed [JURIST reports] by the country's parliament. Abortion has long been illegal in Nicaragua, but the law eliminated a longstanding exception for the health of the mother.

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