San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Rights Activists Expect Reversal On Abortion Ban

MANAGUA – After more than two years of public-awareness campaigns, political lobbying and legal challenges, Nicaraguan human-rights activists are more hopeful than ever that the government’s draconian ban on therapeutic abortions will be overturned by the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

The Supreme Court on Feb. 19 announced that it was done hearing arguments and debate and is prepared to hand down its final ruling on last year’s legal motion challenging the ban on life-saving abortions for women. Women’s rights leaders, who have had little reason to cheer in the past two years, are suddenly feeling optimistic that the ruling will be in their favor.

“We are confident that the arguments and evidence presented will help to justify a favorable sentence that protects the rights of women,” said Marta María Blandón, member of the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion.

Sandinista and Liberal lawmakers outlawed therapeutic abortion Oct. 26, 2006, in a measure rights activists called a shameless electoral ploy by both parties to pander to the church vote on the eve of the presidential elections.

The ban on therapeutic abortions was then upheld the following year in the country’s new Penal Code, which entered into force July 10, 2007.

The ban makes Nicaragua one of only five countries in the world to criminalize abortions to save a pregnant woman’s life, pushing the practice underground.

Rights leaders filed a bevy of legal challenges against the new Penal Code last year, arguing that it was in violation of women’s rights to life, health and human dignity.

The issue also became the first major wedge between the government of Daniel Ortega and the European community, prompting several European countries to suspend or restructure their aid programs to Nicaragua.

The Nica Times has learned from inside sources that the Supreme Court is expected to finally hand down its ruling before breaking for Holy Week recess, or immediately afterwards. Rights leaders say new indications from the government suggest the ruling could go their way – a scenario that seemed like an impossibility just several months ago.


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