Pro-Life Argument Wins in Nicaragua

Anthony Ozimic FAITH Magazine March-April 2007

Late last year the Central American state of Nicaragua passed a law banning all abortions. Following a huge prolife march and rally on 6th October 2006 – reportedly the largest march of any kind ever in Nicaragua’s history– the Nicaraguan National Assembly on 26th October voted (52 in favour, 0 opposed and 9 abstentions) to close a legal loophole which allowed thousands of abortions every year. The loophole allowed so-called ‘therapeutic’ abortion in a completely undefined way.Popular support for a ban on abortion was shown when an estimated 200,000 people marched in the country’s capital, Managua, to demand that unborn children be fully protected. 300,000 Nicaraguans also signed a pro-life petition.

Even members of the Marxist Sandinista party voted for the ban, including Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s incoming president. No Sandinista voted against the ban, and observers believe that the measure would not have passed without significant Sandinista support. On 17th November, Enrique Bolanos, Nicaragua’s outgoing president, signed the ban in the presence of several Catholic and Evangelical clergy, a doctor and others. In a statement, the president said he was closing the legal loophole because it had “allowed the daily execution of innocent children in their mother’s womb, in open violation of the Constitution which protect[s] the unborn child”.

A threatening letter was sent to the President of the National Assembly by diplomatic envoys of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and several nation-states, suggesting that overseas aid would be denied if abortion was not allowed. The EU’s role in pressuring Nicaragua to retain abortion is unsurprising: late last year the European Parliament voted for the controversial terms ‘reproductive health ’and ‘reproductive rights’ in a new legal instrument to regulate EU aid to developing countries — terms which are also often falsely interpreted to include abortion, even a universal human right to abortion on demand.

Euro-parliamentarians voted to retain these terms, despite the fact that the vote may mean that abortions will be promoted and performed using taxpayers’ money from Ireland, Malta, Poland and Portugal, the EU member-states where abortion is illegal, unconstitutional or heavily restricted. The letter, signed inter alia by the EU ambassador, Francesca Mosca, cited various international human rights instruments  to claim that abortion was a “fundamental human right”. Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch said: “The new penal code [banning abortion] doesn’t just go against basic human rights: It goes against fundamental principles of humanity”.

In fact, the American Convention on Human Rights(1969), which Nicaragua has ratified, states: “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. Chile and El Salvador also ban all abortions, and abortion is restricted in most other Latin American countries.

Prohibitions on abortion by sovereign states are not only compatible with the requirements of international human rights instruments but are in fact the most probable interpretation of those requirements. There are some rights which the state has authority to confer(such as citizenship) but there are also fundamental rights of human beings. Fundamental rights, including the right to life, are inherent to, and derive from, the dignity of the human person. These rights are not bestowed by governments but must be recognised by them and protected in law. The right to life and equality is enshrined in a number of international human rights instruments. The centrepiece of the UN Nations Charter is the connection between the recognitionof the inherent dignity of all members of the human family(and of the inviolable and inalienable human rights which derive from that recognition) on the one hand, and peace and justice within and among nation states on the other. Unless the State can guarantee the right to life then there are no meaningful rights to freedom or to security of person.

Aspects of the Nicaraguan pro-life argument:

In response to the letter sent by the U.N. CEDAW committee (the treaty body for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, Nicaragua’s largest public policy women’s organization, stated:

“Nicaraguans held a massive rally – 200,000 strong, led and filled by women – in support of an abortion ban. Yet radical feminists and U.N. officials tried to bully Nicaraguan leaders into cancelling the vote….Clearly U.N. agents are abusing their position to force their ideology on democratic societies, even when the women of those societies vehemently oppose it. (This is) U.N. interference in this free vote of a sovereign nation …. The U.N. committee’s bullying of Nicaragua proves why the U.S. should not ratify CEDAW and subject Americans to these abusive feminist ideologues…”

Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua said: “We support life, and we think that children should be given in adoption rather than having their lives taken…There have been cases in which the unwanted child, when he is an adult, is the one to take care of the grandmother and provide for the mother…Nicaragua faces the challenge of working for a culture of life, in which people are taught the value of being parents and the true meaning of sexuality.”

Toni Solo of Scoop Independent News has commented: “One of the defining characteristics of contemporary Nicaraguan society is a widespread turning to religion or spirituality for affirmation in the face of the ruthless application of savage ‘free market’ capitalism.

A BBC report contained this snippet:
Maria Mora is an ordinary Nicaraguan woman. She has four children. “Do you agree with abortion,” I ask .“No,” says Maria. “Why?” I say. “How could I abort my child?” Maria replies. “But what if your life was in danger?” I continue. “I would rather die myself than live without my child,” she says, with a conviction that does not entertain ambiguity.

Orlando Tardencilla, one of the members of the subcommittee which proposed the bill, said: “Unless abortion is made a crime, then people can simply come out and say: ‘I have the right to an abortion, this is my body and I can decide.’ That’s like saying: ‘I’m allowed to commit murder because these hands are mine, this gun is mine.’”

Father Ronaldo Alvarez, church spokesman, said :“Abortion is the murder of an unborn child. Just because you can’t see the baby, doesn’t mean it has no rights…[Rape] is not the fault of the baby. It is the rapist, not the child, who should be punished…We don’t want to harm women, but there must be no intervention through choice to kill the baby…We accept there can be natural abortions, but that is the biological will of the body, not the chosen will of the human mind”.

Rafael Cabrera, an obstetrician and leader of the Yes to Life Movement, said: “We don’t believe a child should be destroyed under the pretext that a woman might die.”

Faith Magazine

March - April 2007