[Note: This is a blog post from last November which I’m bumping because Profacero posted an update in the comments last night. — Heart]
In a move of catastrophic proportions for the women and girls of Nicaragua, and ignoring hundreds of women protesting the passage of the measure outside of the National Assembly last week — many calling the decision a “death sentence” for pregnant women and a “violation of human rights” — the Nicaraguan parliament has unanimously moved to implement a total ban on therapeutic abortion.
The measure was approved a week before the national elections. Of the five candidates, three are conservatives — conservatives having won in elections over the last 16 years — and two are liberals. One of those liberals, Edmundo Jarquin, of the Sandinista Renovation Movement, was opposed to the total ban on abortions. He had the support of the Feminist Movement of Nicaragua.
But the other — none other than Daniel Ortega, former president of Nicaragua, one time revolutionary Sandinista, and, come to find out, a child molester, having systematically sexually assaulted his daughter from the time she was 11 years old — supported the total ban. Why? He got religion, yessiree, became a devout Roman Catholic. So hey. Forget about the sexual abuse charges. He denied them, after all, and then refused to give up parliamentary immunity to allow the charges to be tested in court, and so they were thrown out. Forget also about the way Ortega presided over the “disappearances” and imprisonments of political opponents in years past. Ortega’s a new man. God forgives him and so should you. These days he’s all about peace, love, and all babies all the time for all pregnant girls and women of Nicaragua. In fact, Ortega’s former (Contra) enemies, who once fought a bitter civil war against him and the Sandanistas, as well as members of the Catholic Church — which he once accused of collaborating with the CIA — stand united as brothers in their belief that Ortega is a new man now. Especially since he has supported the total ban.
When Ortega’s daughter outed Ortega for his sexual abuse, one-time Sandinista leader and feminist Sofia Montenegro — one of the many woman Sandinista members who left to work on women’s sexual abuse and domestic violence issues — said Ortega’s daughter would do to him what Somoza, Reagan and the Contras never could. But that didn’t happen. What’s a little sexual molestation charge among bro’s? Ortega continued to appeal to the poor and downtrodden of Nicaragua, all the while his jewel-bedecked wife called their daughter a “slut” and took Ortega’s side. Corruption amongst conservatives in power allowed Ortega to deflect attention from his own corruption by working the crowds, appealing to them, calling government leaders criminals and “Somozista.” Now, without explaining how, he says he will provide jobs, improve human rights and turn Nicaragua into the most developed country in the region.
Political analysts say that the total abortion ban comes on the heels of intense political controversy over a 2003 therapeutic abortion provided to a nine-year-old Nicaraguan girl who had been raped in Costa Rica, either by a stranger or her stepfather (who would not submit to tests to rule him out). When the family returned to Nicaragua, doctors agreed that the girls’ health would be as jeopardized by a full-term pregnancy as by an abortion. She ultimately obtained the abortion at a private clinic, despite the Nicaraguan “Family Ministry’s'” threat to prosecute doctors who provided it.
Autonomous Women’s Movements of Nicaragua issued this plea last week, before the vote (and sadly, I did not learn of it until after the vote):
As part of the electoral campaign, the Frente Sandinista under the leadership of ex-revolutionary Daniel Ortega and his Somocist vice presidential candidate, along with other right wing parties (PLC, ALN) have formed an alliance with the Vatican and its catholic hierarchy and some evangelical churches to rush through a law (in 10 days!!!) to outlaw any form of abortion.
This violates established legal process and the secular constitution of the republic as well as basic human rights. It will roll back rights established in a law allowing for therapeutic abortion that has existed since 1891. The only party openly in favor of guaranteeing women’s rights and the therapeutic abortion law is the MRS (Movement for Sandinista Renewal) who has signed an alliance with the Autonomous Women’s Movement. If the new law passes (probable, due to the correlation of forces in the present National Assembly) it means a death sentence for poor women with pregnancies that threaten their lives and torture for raped women, or any woman who can’t or doesn’t want to go ahead with an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy for her health or because of problems with the fetus.
It will also be an excuse for political persecution against the women’s movement and the medical profession if one of these parties wins the election. Women and doctors involved in abortion could face up to 30 years in prison and it will be illegal to promote the right to an abortion, as it will be encouraging a “crime”.
This is a flagrant violation of women’s right to life, to health, to make decision over our own lives. It is also form of institutionalized torture and paves the way for dictatorial measures that violate of our rights as Nicaraguan citizens to free speech and free association, men and women alike. We are facing a new inquisition. Behind this is also the repression of sexual rights which is also on the agenda of religious fundamentalist and their machista and corrupt allies in the political arena.
Autonomous Women’s Movements
Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM)
The Feminist Movement of Nicaragua issued this plea entitled Stop Sandinasta Betrayal!
Campaign to stop Sandinistas and Chuch Right wingers voting to pass a law to allow therapeutic abortion
In Nicaragua, Catholic Church hierarchy, together with the FSLN and other
right wing parties are voting on a law to penalize therapeutic abortion. The
present law allowing for therapeutic abortion (since 1891) cite as justified
causes: a pregnant woman’s life, serious damage to the fetus or embryo and
pregnancies due to rape. The President of the republic Enrique Bolaños has
sent a document to the National Assembly asking members to vote on the bill
without it going through normal procedures in the Justice Commission, but
discussing it only in the plenary session. This means the proposal could be
approved in only 48 hours.
If therapeutic abortion is made a crime this means that a large number of
women and girls who have been raped or are victims of sexual abuse in the
family will be forced to carry their pregnancies further and give birth, it
will condemn to die women who have life-threatening pregnancies, or force us
to give birth to children with serious birth defects without necessarily
having the adequate conditions (emotional, economic, or family environment)
to attend to their need as they should be.
WE ARE ASKING FOR YOUR URGENT ACTION IN ORDER TO STOP THIS VIOLATION OF WOMEN AND GIRLS BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY THE RIGHT TO LIFE.
Director Department of Theology
Ecumenical Centre Antonio Valdivieso
Member of the Feminist Movement of Nicaragua
Here are actions these feminist groups asked that supporters take on behalf of the women of Nicaragua. Since the vote has already been taken, we’re too late. But Autonomous Women’s Movements intends to seek an injunction against the ban. If we get our names on their mailing lists by writing to them, hopefully we will continue to learn how to offer our support.
In sum, a leftist accused of incest and sexual assault joins forces with conservatives and those backed by the Roman Catholic church in supporting a ban on abortion in the hopes he’ll become president. As always, women’s and girls’ lives and bodies are the necessary sacrifice.
Liza Sabater covered the abortion ban here, Jennifer Woodard Maderazo covers it here, and Costa Rican blogger Julia Ardón reprinted a public letter signed by the Nicaraguan Association of Writers (ANIDE) [ES] here.