Central America: women protest abortion bans

On May 28, some 200 Nicaraguan women marked International Day of Action for Women’s Health with a protest in Managua to demand the decriminalization of therapeutic abortion. Dozens of vehicles formed a caravan that drove past the Supreme Court, the National Assembly, the offices of the main Nicaraguan media and the headquarters of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the party of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega Saavedra. The lead vehicle carried a poster of a pregnant woman being crucified, referring to the increase in the number of women dying during pregnancy or childbirth so far in 2007. The protest was organized by the Feminist Movement, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) and the Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, among others.

Therapeutic abortion was permitted under limited circumstances by the Criminal Code ever since 1893. On Oct. 26, 2006, the National Assembly, with the participation of the FSLN, unanimously passed a reform to the code which makes all abortions illegal, even if they are necessary to preserve a woman’s life or health. According to the non-governmental women’s organization Ixchen, 36 women died in pregnancy or childbirth in 2006 and at least 42 women have already died this year, largely because of poor medical services and the new law. (El Nuevo Diario, Managua, May 28 from EFE, May 29 from staff; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, May 28 from AP)

In El Salvador several women’s groups—Women for Dignity and Life (DIGNAS), Las Melidas and the Prudencia Ayala Feminist Coordination—demonstrated in front of the Health Ministry in San Salvador on May 28 to demand the decriminalization of abortion, the construction of a new maternity hospital and increased funding for sex education for adolescents and health care for the population, especially for uterine cancer, breast cancer, AIDS and teenage pregnancy. DIGNAS also sponsored a forum, “The impact of decriminalizing abortion on the health of women.” The group is pushing for the Legislative Assembly to reconsider the issue of decriminalization. One of the speakers was Leticia Quezada, a Mexican legislative deputy from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution. Her party has a majority in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) Legislative Assembly, which passed a law on April 24 decriminalizing abortion in the Mexican capital. (Diario Colatino, San Salvador, May 29)

Guatemalan women’s groups celebrated International Day of Action for Women’s Health with a May 28 march and rally at the Guatemala City municipal building to demand equal access for men and women to basic services and an end to violence against women. The protesters said there are 4.4 births per woman in Guatemala even though the data shows that Guatemalan women want to have fewer children; the death rate for women in childbirth is 153 deaths
for 100,000 births. (La Hora, Guatemala City, May 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 10

See our last posts on Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.