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UN Committee against Torture Calls for an End to Nicaragua's Life-Threatening Abortion Ban

Posted on: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keywords: Reproductive Rights, Women's Health, Nicaragua, Latin America and Caribbean, UN

In a precedent-setting move, the United Nations Committee against Torture has called for Nicaragua to modify its abortion laws.  Since October 2006, Nicaragua has eliminated all exceptions to a ban on abortions, including procedures to save the life of the pregnant woman. 

MADRE applauds the Committee for recognizing that the law poses a serious risk to the human rights of women and girls and contravenes the Nicaraguan government's obligations under the Convention against Torture.

MADRE has joined with a coalition of US-based and Nicaraguan organizations to present this case before multiple UN treaty bodies.  In conjunction with the Committee against Torture's most recent session, this coalition submitted a report entitled "Report on Violations of Women's Human Rights to Therapeutic Abortion and Emergency Medical Care."

This report demonstrates that the law places life-saving treatment out of reach of women experiencing pregnancy complications or women who are survivors of rape or incest.  The law increases the number of women seeking unsafe abortion methods.  Furthermore, the report shows that doctors concerned about facing possible criminal charges are dissuaded from providing non-abortion medical treatments that may cause unintentional damage to the fetus.

Vivian Stromberg, Executive Director of MADRE and a signatory to the coalition's report, said today,
"This law presents a direct threat to women's lives, and we commend the Committee for taking a stand against it.  Nicaraguan women's human rights have been held hostage to this law, and the government must prioritize women's lives over ideology.  Otherwise, women will continue to experience the emotional and physical pain created by a denial of access to necessary medical treatment."

Available for comment:

Rhonda Copelon is an expert in reproductive rights and health, and a signatory to the "Report on Violations of Women's Human Rights to Therapeutic Abortion and Emergency Medical Care."  She has worked in the US and in the international arena as a professor of law and the co-director of the International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic at the City University of New York Law School.  Previously, she was a staff lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights.  She has published numerous texts in the field of reproductive and sexual rights and international women's human rights.

Vivian Stromberg
, MADRE Executive Director, is an educator and expert on gender, women's economic development, US foreign policy, human rights, sexual violence, and child development. She is the MADRE representative to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations and has participated in all of the major UN Conferences since 1992. Ms. Stromberg works in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans, and has been an activist in the peace and social justice movements for over 45 years.

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