Nicaragua: Ban on abortion violates UN Convention against Torture.

Nicaragua’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are examined in light of Amnesty International’s research findings from recent country visits.
Based on Amnesty International's research in Nicaragua, carried out with Nicaraguan medical professionals, women, girls, human rights defenders and representatives from civil society, the briefing – 'Nicaragua: The impact of the complete ban of abortion in Nicaragua: Briefing to the United Nations Committee against Torture' – argues that the complete ban on abortion violates Articles 1, 2, 14 and 16 of the UN Convention against Torture.
Prior to 2006, Nicaraguan law permitted exceptions to the general ban on abortion only for those women and girls whose life or health was threatened by the continuation of their pregnancy, and in some cases, for victims of rape. The revised penal code, which came into force in July 2008, repealed this exception, with the result that victims of rape and those whose life or health depend on access to abortion are now prohibited from legally obtaining it. The new legislation criminalises all forms of abortion, regardless of the circumstances in which the abortion is sought, obtained or performed. The revised law also provides for prison sentences for medical providers who cause unintentional harm to the foetus during the administration of medically indicated treatment to pregnant women and girls.

Amnesty International has examined both the purpose and the likely consequences of these provisions in the revised penal code in relation to Nicaragua’s obligation to ensure the right of women to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The complete criminalisation of abortion greatly increases the level of pain and suffering endured by many pregnant women and girls, including those who are seeking medical care for complications and those who are seeking a therapeutic abortion. Amnesty International finds that the impact of the ban on abortion in Nicaragua is most acutely felt by:

  • women and girl survivors of rape and incest
  • women and girls who need treatment for life threatening illnesses
  • women and girls facing complications in pregnancy and in need of essential medical treatment
  • women and girls in need of post abortion care, whether for a miscarriage or induced abortion
  • The denial of access to legal and safe abortion services can cause delays in treatment which pose a threat to the health and lie of Nicaraguan women and girls. The criminalisation of abortion compounds physical pain, fear, depression and stigma. In many cases, the level of suffering may lead to death or suicide. As Amnesty International and other groups have found elsewhere, criminalisation does not mean that no abortions will take place—some women and girls will instead resort to illegal abortion, risking their health and lives as well as the possibility of severe punishment in the process. Doctors who perform abortions could also be subject to punitive measures, including professional, criminal and even religious sanctions. They must either obey the law or fulfil their ethical obligation to save life and to respect the inherent dignity of their patient.

    Indeed, the denial of access to essential medical services alone has severe consequences for pregnant women and girls, regardless of whether criminal penalties are imposed. Nicaraguan women and girls who are affected by this law are often in a traumatised state, experiencing severe pain and in fear for their health and lives, even prior to the denial of medically indicated treatment. These women and girls suffer torture and other ill treatment as a direct result of the state’s legislative action.

    Source: OHCHR