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A study released yesterday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that Nicaraguan women’s health and lives have been put at risk by the country’s blanket ban on abortions, imposed one year ago. The ban includes "therapeutic abortions" (abortions meant to save a woman’s life or health) and has no exceptions for rape or incest.
The HRW report, "Over Their Dead Bodies," found that the ban has not only discouraged women from seeking abortions but has also had a ripple effect on basic obstetric and gynecological care. According to the report, many women are no longer seeking medical help for pregnancy-related complications for fear that they will be accused of inducing an abortion.
"Doctors in Nicaragua are now afraid to provide even legal health services to pregnant women," said Angela Heimburger, Americas researcher at HRW’s Women's Rights Division.
The study also notes that the Nicaraguan government hasn’t enforced guidelines meant to curb these unintended effects of the ban and has no plans to study its effect on women’s health.
On Sunday, protesters with the Nicaraguan Feminist Movement interrupted mass at a church in Managua to protest the ban, the Associated Press reports. Women’s and human rights groups filed petitions in January asking the Nicaraguan Supreme Court to declare the ban unconstitutional, but the Court has yet to rule. The only other countries with blanket bans on abortion are Chile and El Salvador, according to HRW.
Media Resources: The Associated Press 10/2/07; Human Rights Watch Press Release 10/2/07; "Over Their Dead Bodies" 10/07