Amnesty International Slams Nicaragua for Abortion Ban

Amnesty International is slamming yet another Latin American country for its pro-life laws. In a recently released report , Amnesty has called Nicaragua’s total ban on abortions a "cruel, inhuman disgrace" and charged that the new law has led to an increase in maternal deaths.  As in the cases of Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Peru, Amnesty’s latest report on Nicaragua incorrectly argues that international law requires countries to permit abortion, and, according to critics, it misrepresents the facts which actually show a decrease in the maternal death rate.

The Nicaraguan law restricting abortion under any circumstances passed the National Assembly unanimously in 2006 and has been a lightning rod for criticism from abortion advocates around the globe.  The new Amnesty report “The total abortion ban in Nicaragua: Women’s lives and health endangered, medical professionals criminalized” accuses the Nicaraguan government of implementing a "discriminatory" law that they charge will increase maternal mortality. Amnesty also blasts the ban’s criminal penalties asserting they will force health care professionals into "legal jeopardy."

Claiming that Nicaragua is violating international law, Amnesty cites the non-binding recommendations of United Nations treaty monitoring bodies – the committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee Against Torture – as evidence of the country’s international law obligations to permit abortion.

UN critics point out, however, that no UN treaty even mentions abortion and that members of the committees charged with overseeing state compliance to the treaties have taken it upon themselves to attach a "right to abortion" under long-established rights like the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to privacy and the right to be free from discrimination.

Amnesty claims that Nicaragua’s prohibition on abortion is discriminatory because of its negative consequences for women and girls as only "women and girls are compelled to continue a medically dangerous or unwanted pregnancy or face imprisonment" or "suffer the mental anguish and physical pain of an unsafe abortion, risking their health and life in the process."

One of Amnesty’s chief assertions is that the ban will prevent medical professionals from treating women in some cases because they fear criminal prosecution as their actions could be seen as helping a woman terminate a pregnancy.  According to other news reports, the Nicaraguan government has repeatedly made clear that the existing medical code will be respected, which allows lifesaving treatments that could indirectly cause an abortion.  Even though Amnesty admits that the ban has not led to any criminal prosecutions, the group blasts the Nicaraguan government speculating that the ban will result in "delays in diagnosis and treatment, to the detriment of Nicaraguan women and girls seeking medical care."

Since Amnesty released its Nicaragua report, the organization is being asked to account for their findings. Matthew Hoffman, a reporter for investigating Amnesty’s claims about the Nicaraguan ban, found that the organization had actually falsified the date the criminal code was changed in "an apparent attempt to cover up the fact that maternal mortality actually fell in 2007, the year after exceptions in the penal code for ‘therapeutic abortions’ were abolished."

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