Tuesday June 15, 2010

Nicaragua again Rejects Foreign Pressure to Legalize Abortion

By Patrick B. Craine

GENEVA, Switzerland, June 15, 2010 ( – Nicaragua, one of the few countries in the world to maintain a total ban on abortion, has again rejected pressure by foreign powers to liberalize its pro-life legislation.

A report from proceedings at the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva reveals that 11 countries called for Nicarague to legalize abortion. Delegate Carlos Robelo, however, flatly refused to bow under pressure.

Instead, reports Pat Buckley, the UN consultant for the UK-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), Robelo told the HRC that Nicaragua would not reverse its pro-life legislation to allow “therapeutic abortions” and maintained that the law as it stands expresses the will of the country’s people.

The proceedings were part of the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review. Under that review each of the 192 UN member states is assessed every 4 years on how they live up to their commitments under international treaties and conventions.

Nicaragua’s review was finalized on June 9th. The report, issued in March, records that the following countries called for Nicarague to legalize abortion: the Netherlands, Norway, Czech Republic, Mexico, UK, Belgium, France, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Slovenia.

Previous news reports have indicated that other countries, including the United States and Canada, have also pressured Nicaragua on the issue. Additionally, the HRC report indicates that India suggested exceptions for “therapeutic abortion” but did not make specific recommendations.

The recommendations in the report vary, but tend to call for Nicaragua to open its laws to “therapeutic abortion” or to abortion in cases involving rape or incest. Finland’s recommendation urges Nicaragua to “Revise legislation regarding the sexual and reproductive rights of women, including the abolition of the total ban on abortion, and ensure their access to services necessary for their enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.”

Buckley called the pressure “appalling,” and denounced the countries for interfering with Nicaragua’s sovereignty. These countries “give the impression that there is an international right to abortion, which of course there isn’t,” he said. “There is no internationally-agreed right to abortion. It has never been accepted here at the UN and the fact that countries place pressure on a country with a pro-life constitution is appalling.”

Since Nicaragua tightened its abortion law in 2006, it has faced intense pressure from international pro-abortion groups and foreign governments. The Swedish government has cut off development aid to the country over the law, and numerous countries – including Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands – have threatened similar actions.

Nicaragua’s previous law had allowed unborn children to be killed if 3 doctors deemed the mother’s life or health to be at risk, or if the child was conceived in rape. The new law was instituted in response to demands from the strongly Catholic populace. The month before the law passed, an estimated 200,000 citizens marched on the country’s capital demanding better protections for the unborn.

In 2007, the president of the Nicaraguan Medical Association rebuked claims that the law endangers women, noting that maternal deaths had declined in the year since the new law was passed.

Amnesty International, in particular, has led a campaign against the law, claiming that the law even prevents procedures that would save the mother’s life. But government leaders have insisted that the law does not preclude giving a pregnant mother life-saving treatment that would also result in the death of her child.

Responding Thursday to Nicaragua’s rejection of the HRC recommendations, Amnesty International (AI) pledged to continue its battle against the pro-life law, which they labelled as dangerous to women and an affront to women’s “rights.”

“The refusal to support these recommendations shows contempt for its [Nicaragua’s] obligations under UN treaties to protect women and girls from human rights violations,” claimed Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director for AI’s Americas programme. “It also demonstrates a chilling indifference to women and girls in their country.”

But Buckley called Amnesty International’s claims “absolute nonsense.” “Any effort to protect the life of the baby would also protect the life of the mother,” he insisted. “Of course a woman has a right to every possible treatment to protect her life, but that should never ever be at the expense of a direct attack on the life of the baby.”

See related coverage:

United Nations Urges Nicaragua to Legalize Abortion

Amnesty International Calls Protection of Unborn in Nicaragua a “Great Horror”

When Murder Becomes a “Human Right,” the First Victim is the Truth

UN Health Data Show Liberal Abortion Laws Lead to Greater Maternal Death

Vast Majority of Latin Americans Support Criminal Penalties for Abortion