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Volume 12, Number 37
August 27, 2009
Abortion Giant Joins Attacks against Nicaragua
By Aracely Ornelas
(NEW YORK – C-FAM) One of the world’s largest abortion advocates joined the onslaught against Nicaragua’s decision to ban abortion in two recently published Spanish language reports. Ipas, known for distributing the manual vacuum aspirator – a device used to perform early term abortions, particularly in countries where it is illegal – is claiming that Nicaragua is violating women’s human rights.
The Ipas reports claim that the abortion ban is unconstitutional and a “setback” for human rights. Nicaraguan lawmakers, on the other hand, say the ban is a step forward since the law which permitted “therapeutic” abortion violated the country’s understanding of its international obligations. Nicaragua is party to the American Convention on Human Rights which states in Article 4 that life shall be protected by law “from the moment of conception.”
The Nicaraguan representatives who initiated the abortion ban say that the new law also makes the penal code more consistent with the constitutional framework which was amended to explicitly recognize the right to life of every citizen after the death penalty was abolished.
Pro-life advocates point out that Ipas’ definition of “therapeutic abortion” proves that the lawmakers’ position is right: the former law allowed a loophole for ever expanding access to abortion. Indeed, one report’s glossary of terms expands the definition of saving “the life and health of the mother” as also including pregnancies resulting from particular circumstances, such as rape or incest. And while the reports say that “therapeutic abortion ban excludes many women who need it to save their lives,” the Nicaraguan government insists that the ban does not prohibit medical procedures to save a woman’s life. Critics also note that the reports ignore the two most successful methods of reducing maternal mortality: increasing skilled attendants at birth and improving the availability and delivery of optimum pre-natal and post-natal healthcare for mothers and their children.
Recent health data also show that the ban may be saving more women’s lives. Statistics from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA), released since the ban was implemented, indicates a reduction in maternal mortality by 58% between 2008 and 2009. Despite the indications of progress in reducing maternal mortality, the Ipas reports use “reducing maternal deaths” as a cornerstone of their argument against the ban. In doing so, they join various UN agencies and non-governmental organizations who are pressuring the government to overturn the ban on the grounds that liberal abortion laws are necessary to reduce maternal mortality.
The Ipas reports also paint a dire picture for doctors in Nicaragua, asserting that abortion ban violates the right to free exercise of medical professionals claiming that the ban “forces doctors to violate ethical principles of their profession to prevent an abortion while endangering the life or health of women.”
The Association of Nicaraguan Doctors countered this claim stating that, “There is no situation, in current medical practice, where human life from the moment of conception, should be intentionally destroyed by abortion in order to save the life of the mother. A physician must do everything possible to save the lives of both patients – mother and child. Death should never be inflicted on any of them. ”