Nicaraguan Laws Increase Maternal Mortality

According to a report today from Feministing, Amnesty International has started a campaign to repeal the anti-abortion laws in Nicaragua, which were enacted one year ago—laws that ban abortion in every single case, regardless of the state of the mother or the fetus’s health, mandating prison sentences for women who request them and doctors who perform them. According to their Web site, conditions for women in the Central American country are dire.

“The new Code introduces criminal sanctions for doctors and nurses who treat a pregnant woman or girl for illnesses such as cancer, malaria, HIV/AIDS or cardiac emergencies where such treatment is contraindicated in pregnancy and may cause injury to or death of the embryo or foetus.  
It even goes as far as punishing girls and women who have suffered a miscarriage, as in many cases it is impossible to distinguish spontaneous from induced abortions.”

In a video produced by the international NGO, interviewed doctors explained just how difficult it is to treat women with endangered pregnancies: if they perform the operation for any reason at all, they can be prosecuted. If they don’t act, and the woman and fetus both end up dying, they can be taken to court by the family of the victim.

Not an easy choice.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • independentminded

    That’s a really tough call. I think it’s immoral for any country or state to oppose abortion rights, when women die or become permanently maimed by a hazardous pregnancy, or an illegal abortion due to not having access to a safe, legal abortion when needed. I wonder if other countries throughout the world will fallow suit and make abortion illegal, like Nicaragua just did. I certainly hope not, because there’ll be many more women who’ll die or be permanently maimed as a consequence of dangerous pregnancies or botched-up illegal abortions.

  • crowepps

    The full report in .pdf format is available here:



    I found this particularly alarming: "Foetal and maternal life and health can be put at risk by medical conditions experienced by pregnant women whether these are caused by the pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, or aggravated by it, such as malaria. Foetal and maternal life and health can also be put at risk by obstructed or premature labour. In each situation of medical risk, doctors will aim to preserve or restore both foetal and maternal life and health. But some medical interventions during pregnancy or delivery aimed at preserving maternal and or foetal life and health can result in unintentional injury or death of the foetus. These include, for instance, malaria or cancer treatment and surgery or expedited delivery.


    Article 148 of the penal code deals with penalties for any serious injury or harm to the embryo or foetus: “Whosoever, by whatever method or procedure wounds the unborn or causes an illness which has grave consequences for normal development, or causes a grave and permanent physical or psychological wound will be punished by between two to five years in prison and a prohibition on exercising any medical profession or providing services of any type in a clinic or gynaecological practice, public or private, for between two and eight years."


    The wording of Article 148 implies that any medically indicated treatment that results in the injury or death of the embryo or foetus could be treated as a criminal offence, even if the medical professional had no intention of harming the foetus. Indeed, the framing of the law could lead to criminalization of medical care aimed at saving a foetus during a difficult labour if this results in serious harm or death, even in cases where there was neither negligence nor intent to cause harm. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many health professionals described to Amnesty International their intense anxiety about treating pregnant women and girls and attending difficult births."

  • invalid-0