Nicaraguans march against abortion law

Hundreds of Nicaraguan women marched in Managua on Sept. 28 to demand that the government of President Daniel Ortega Saavedra veto a new law establishing a prison sentence of one to three years for anyone who performs any type of abortion, and one to two years for any woman who consents to the procedure. Calling for civil disobedience and chanting “They didn’t respect our lives, we won’t respect their laws,” the protesters marched to the headquarters of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which Ortega leads. The marchers, who carried coffins and images of crucified women, also protested in front of the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Assembly. The march was organized by the Autonomous Women’s Movement as part of the Day of the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On Oct. 26, 2006, shortly before national elections, the National Assembly rushed through a ban on all abortions, changing the criminal code, which had previously allowed abortions when the mother’s life was at risk and in cases of rape and incest. On Sept. 13 this year the National Assembly, with the support of the 38 FSLN deputies, affirmed the change and set the criminal penalties. The FSLN had “betrayed its principles,” Feminist Movement leader Ana Maria Pizarro charged at the Sept. 28 march. The new law had already claimed a victim, according to Pizarro. A 25-year-old woman committed suicide on Sept. 25 after a women’s center told her they couldn’t perform an abortion; the young woman had been raped by her uncle. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Sept. 28 from AP; El Nuevo Diario, Managua, Sept. 28 from EFE) [A similar mobilization against the abortion law was held in the spring. See WNU, June 10, 2007]

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 30

See our last posts on Nicaragua and Central America.

  1. Abortion law protests continue in Nicaragua
    On Sept. 30 Nicaraguan pro-choice activists staged a protest at Managua’s Metropolitan Cathedral during Sunday mass as part of a campaign for the repeal of an October 2006 law criminalizing all abortions. At first the protesters stood in front of the Cathedral with signs, including one that read: “Our Catholic hierarchy had no pity for women.” Later they entered the cathedral and approached the main altar. Fistfights broke out between protesters and some of the worshipers, but the protesters went back outside after police agents arrived. There were no arrests.

    The campaign to repeal the anti-abortion legislation began with a protest by hundreds of women in Managua on Sept. 28, after the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 13 to impose criminal penalties for carrying out abortions. Under Article 165, a century-old provision in the Criminal Code, abortions had been legal in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life was in danger, but shortly before November 2006 national presidential and legislative elections, most of the political parties hastily voted to eliminate the article under pressure from the Catholic church and from Protestant sects. On Oct. 2, the US-based Human Rights Watch released a report on the effects of the ban on therapeutic abortions. There have been at least 80 maternal deaths since October 2006, according to the report. Human Rights Watch investigator Angela Heimburger called on Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega to “help mitigate the disastrous effects of this prohibition, prioritizing access for pregnant women to emergency medical attention.”

    The protests continued on Oct. 4, when about 100 women demonstrated outside the Camino Real Hotel in northern Managua, where the First Meeting of International and Regional Courts of Justice was being held. “Hypocrites…murderers,” the protesters shouted as legislative deputies from the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the right-wing Liberal Constitutionalist Party entered to attend the meeting. The police used force to remove the protesters. (El Nuevo Diario, Managua, Oct. 2; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Oct. 2 from EFE, Oct. 4 from AP)

    The vote comes days after a general strike over neoliberal economic reform in CAFTA partner Dominican Republic.