San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Penal Code Approved, Abortion Criminalized

MANAGUA – The legislative National Assembly Nov. 13 approved in final vote the country’s new Penal Code, rejecting a last-minute motion by several lawmakers to include a clause that would allow for lifesaving therapeutic abortions.

The final approval of the new 600-article Penal Code will go into effect next February, replacing the 1837 Penal Code, which allowed for therapeutic abortion.

Therapeutic abortion was first outlawed here at the end of last year, but rights groups held on to hopes that it would again be included in the new Penal Code. A group of lawmakers attempted to insert a clause in the final draft of the bill to allow for lifesaving abortions under a different name, but it was shot down in a 48-16 vote.

José Pallais, Liberal lawmaker and president of the National Assembly’s Justice Commission, lamented the ultimate criminalization of abortion by calling the decision “an historic setback that puts Nicaragua into obscurantism”… and a “violation that sets Nicaragua back more than 23 centuries.”

One of the more surprising elements of the new Penal Code was the decriminalization of sodomy, which caused a stir among some of the more conservative lawmakers.

The new Penal Code also reduces the sentence for money laundering from 20 to six years – a reform that could benefit incarcerated former President Arnoldo Alemán.


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