By Hilary White

MANAGUA, October 26, 2006 ( – Despite intense pressure from international feminist and population control groups, Nicaragua’s Congress voted today to significantly strengthen its legal protections for the unborn.

If signed into law by President Enrique Bolanos, the measure will eliminate a loophole that allowed an unborn child to be killed if three doctors certify that a woman’s “life or health” is at risk. The so-called “health” exception terminology, which is almost always broadly interpreted, has opened the door in other countries to virtually unlimited abortion-on-demand. Current law also allows for the child to be killed if she has been conceived in rape. The passed law would close both those exceptions.

It seems likely that Bolanos will sign the new changes into law. The Associated Press reported that Bolanos recommended not only that Nicaragua retain its prohibition of abortion, but that penalties against women and those who assist them be increased to 10-30 years in prison.

One observer reports that the debate in the National Assembly used strong language to describe the crime of abortion. A Deputy said during the debate that the country “must not return to the time of Herod,” and that Nicaragua is a “free and independent” country that will not accept foreign meddling that “goes against our principles and cultural identity.”

The deputies praised motherhood and the Christian faith and told international organizations not to interfere.

Nicaragua currently enjoys a birth rate far higher than that of most secularized countries, 24.51 births/1,000 population, compared to Canada’s 10.78/1000. This and the fact that it is a strongly Catholic country that retains much of the values of Christianity, makes it a popular target of political pressure to legalize abortion from international population control groups funded through the United Nations.

Even many of the Marxist Sandinistas supported the pro-life measure. It would not have passed without significant Sandinista support. No Sandinista voted against the measure. The feminist group, Women’s Autonomous Movement, said it will file an injunction if the bill is approved.

Jose Miguel Vivanco executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, warned that Nicaragua would likely face lawsuits in the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Popular support for the new law was demonstrated on October 6th when an estimated 200,000 Nicaraguans marched in Managua, the country’s capital, to demand that unborn children be better protected in law. Organized by the Catholic bishops and evangelical leaders, the marchers met with the legislators who committed themselves to endorsing the proposal.

A Catholic organizer of the march said it represented a significant step forward for Nicaragua. She said, “The best thing that has happened is the union of Catholics and evangelicals. United we have the power! This union will help us win the fight against the international anti-life and anti-family agenda.”

A group of diplomats attempted to pressure the government to drop the proposal urging them to “reflect” and enter into a “dialogue” before making the decision.

A threatening letter was sent to National Assembly President, Eduardo Gomez by a group of ambassadors of “donor countries”, including Canada, hinting that aid money, still badly needed after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch 1998, would be withheld if abortion restrictions were not loosened.

The letter’s signatories included the ambassador from Sweden, Eva Zetterberg; advisor of development and head of cooperation of Canada, Kerry Max; Alfredo Missair, representative of United Nations Development Program (the PNUD) and formerly the representative of UNICEF for Latin America; Inger Hirvela Lopez, ambassador of Finland; and Francesca Mosca, ambassador of the European Union.

The letter said “the human rights of women is a principle of the Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua, as well as in the Declaration of Human rights.” The letter also cited various UN agreements including the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Fourth Conference of the Woman in Beijing (1995) to indicate that abortion was a “fundamental human right.”

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