Therapeutic abortion was legal in Nicaragua from 1898 but this change in october 26 2006 when the government criminalized abortion in any form, Women who become pregnant after being raped or whose lives are endangered by their pregnancy, are banned from having abortions. Only in other two countries in the world - Chile and El Salvador - women are in the same conditions. Despite protest from 95% of the country's gynecologists, the Nicaraguan National Assembly voted again by a huge majority in September 2007 to include the criminalization of abortion in the penal code. Since the legislation was introduced, 90 maternal deaths have been reported across the country.
In Nicaragua where rape and incest have reached epidemic proportions, the 50% of women currently living in extreme poverty will suffer most. Having won the support of the powerful Catholic Church in the 2006 election by promising to make therapeutic abortion illegal, this is a crisis President Daniel Ortega refuses to acknowledge. Human Rights Watch, in a recent report titled Over Their Dead Bodies, cited one woman who urgently needed medical help, but was left untreated at a public hospital for two days because the fetus was still alive and so a therapeutic abortion would be illegal. Eventually she expelled the fetus on her own. "By then she was already in septic shock and died five days later," said the doctor.Dr Leonel Arguello, executive director of human rights group CEPS, believes the legislation has already destroyed hundreds of lives. "When you eliminate therapeutic abortion, you are condemning a woman to death. With an ectopic pregnancy, there is a one in a million chance the fetus will survive. Between six and eight hundred women have ectopic pregnancies every year in Nicaragua but doctors can do nothing; their hands are tied. Another woman, named Mariana, said she obtained a clandestine abortion because her pregnancy aggravated a permanent health condition. "I was very afraid. It was very traumatic not to be able to talk about it, because it is a crime. The abortion saved both me and the two children I already have." The report said the potentially most harmful impact was that girls and women were afraid of seeking treatment for pregnancy-related complications, especially hemorrhaging, in case they were accused of having induced an abortion. Nicaragua's leading gynecologist Oscar Flores has been practicing for 40 years. For him, the legislation is as much a death sentence for doctors as Nicaraguan women. Reduced to tears, he asks, "what road do we take now? We can leave the country and practice elsewhere, we can retire or we can add to the inmates in our prisons. It hurts me. In the past few days, I have decided to abandon my practice. It feels like I'm throwing my whole life away, I can't ask or expect my colleagues to do the same but I feel it's the only choice I have.