Greetings from Nicaragua, where abortion is about to be made even more illegal than it already is. On the eve of a heated presidential election, the executive committee of
the Nicaraguan National Assembly is poised to accept a proposal that would
remove the 130-year-old therapeutic abortion provision from Nicaragua's
penal code. Their action would make abortion illegal in Nicaragua without exception – including, that is, in cases where a pregnant woman's life was at risk, or in case of rape, incest, or fetal malformation. If the proposal is accepted, Nicaragua will join El Salvador and Chile as one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere where abortion is totally illegal. For a thoroughly chilling portrait of how this will affect Nicaraguan women's lives, read Jack Hitt's "Pro-Life Nation."
The proposal to render therapeutic abortion illegal as put forth by the powerful evangelical [img_assist|nid=1002|title=Behind a banner denouncing “pro-life” hypocrisy, protesters hold silhouettes representing women who have died from illegal, unsafe abortions.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=279|height=211]and Catholic lobbies here, joined by a growing number of anti-abortion NGOs, and bolstered by a misinformation campaign. It's supported by three out of the four presidential candidates up for election this November – right-wing candidate Eduardo Montealegre proudly marched against abortion last Friday in a demonstration organized by a coalition of Christian and right-wing organizations, under a banner that read "Pro-life: No Exceptions". Nice slogan, guys, but what about women's lives? I hate to be a stickler for grammar, but when you're lobbying to make life-saving abortions illegal, that seems like a fairly glaring exception.
In a demonstration of their zeal for life, the anti-abortion coalition would like to [img_assist|nid=1005|title=A young pregnant woman’s belly reads, “I decided!”|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=150|height=200]modify the penal code so that it includes 20 years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion (including loss of medical license for any doctors who perform abortions), increased to 30 years in prison if the woman doesn't survive the procedure (from which we can deduce, I suppose, that a fetal life is worth twice as much as a woman's life). The National Assembly's executive committee has informed the anti-abortion coalition that introducing these new punishments would entail a lengthy legal process, whereas simply eliminating the therapeutic abortion provision from the penal code could take as short as two or three weeks. The coalition, understandably, has gone for the fast-track option, which means that therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua could be a thing of the past by November.
Yesterday, over a thousand women gathered from across the country [img_assist|nid=1004|title=The Nicaraguan Association for Men Against Violence hold a banner that reads “Condemning Women to Imprisonment or Death is Violence: Yes to Therapeutic Abortion!”|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=258|height=194]to press the National Assembly to reconsider their decision – since women's lives literally depend on it. The demonstration brought together members of the Autonomous Women's Movement, members of women's collectives from across the country, and feminists of all ages. Nicaraguan men marched side by side with women to show solidarity – I was walking in front of a banner held by the Association of Men Against Violence that read "Condemning Women to Imprisonment or Death is Violence." ¡Adelante, compañeros! Now if only the National Assembly would listen before it's too late…
[img_assist|nid=1003|title=A woman stands in front of an anti-abortion poster that reads “In Nicaragua, 100 children like this one are murdered every day” with her own message: “I love my daughters, I love my family, I love life: I have the right to therapeutic abortion.”|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=344|height=457]
Photos by Wendy Matamoros, Puntos de Encuentro.