Latin America never ceases to amaze me. In particular it is Central America with tiny countries smaller than the size of most of our states which is shining a light to the rest of the world right now. Despite our own disappointments, weeks after significant pro-life defeats (such as in Missouri and South Dakota), we can rejoice that our neighbors in Nicaragua have succeeded in outlawing abortion in all circumstances!
American pro-lifers, still stinging with the pain of defeat, will find encouragement, consolation and insight in the heroes of Latin America whose refusal to cave in to the anti-life agenda has earned them the admiration of the worldwide pro-life community. The little pro-life David fought off the anti-life Goliath, and now we know it can be done.
Nicaragua's action comes as the latest in a series of actions by Central American countries that astound us for their amazing feistiness. In 1999 El Salvador re-wrote its constitution to insert protection of human life "from the moment of conception," the first country on record ever to do that. In 2005 the United Nations issued a non-binding resolution on all forms of human cloning after a three-year campaign led by Costa Rica – imagine the United Nations actually doing something moral for a change! Also in 2005, another Central American country, Honduras, steadfastly rejected attempts to legalize the morning after pill there. I am proud to tell you that these efforts were spearheaded by HLI's affiliates and great pro-life friends in these countries and supported by you, our extended HLI family.
With regard to Nicaragua, in early October HLI's Dr. Rafael Cabrera and other pro-life leaders, working with the Church, called a pro-life march demanding the removal of the one provision in their criminal code which allowed abortions for "therapeutic" reasons. This weasel word is of course a loophole in any law allowing doctors to kill babies for the flimsiest of reasons or lie about the reasons and avoid prosecution. More than two hundred thousand people came to the march! That this country of only three million people was able to muster a courageous outcry in defense of the unborn was due both to the effective organizing efforts of a few but also to their disgust with the intrusions of international agencies like UNICEF and arrogant western governments like Germany and Finland who intervened fiercely to stop the abortion ban. It's about time the smaller nations threw off their rich exploiters.
In the face of this kind of public display of values, Nicaraguan politicos, typical of politicians everywhere, blew with the wind – they voted 59-0 to outlaw abortion! As I have mentioned before, politics change when culture changes, and culture changes when hearts change. Would that America had the heart of our feisty little neighbors to the south!
The foundation of such a social renewal movement is found in the dynamic and powerful leadership of Church leaders who stand up to the powers that be and rebuke them. In all of these countries, the bishops have refused to be silent and instead have led their people to victory. A special mention must be made of Miguel Cardinal Obando of Managua for marching in the front of the multitude of his people like the Good Shepherd in the Gospel (cf. Jn 10:4).
Let us continue to pray for our Central American neighbors, that they maintain their strength and courage and persevere on the pro-life battle front. They have been mightily threatened with reprisals. Let us also pray for our own country, and our bishops, that we too may find the courage as they did, to stand strong in the face of death.