All abortions banned in Nicaragua

Days ahead of Nicaragua's presidential election, the Central American country's legislature has unanimously passed a law banning all abortions including those for rape victims and women who risk death in childbirth.

The Herald-Sun reports that the law, promoted by the country's Catholic Church, was approved with the support of reluctant left-wing legislators who backed it to help their party's leader, Daniel Ortega, sweep back to power in the 5 November election.

According to the report, Mr Ortega's Sandinista party supported it to avoid alienating church leaders and religious voters in the last days of what is described as a tight campaign.

Mr Ortega, who led a 1979 revolution and fought a civil war against US-backed Contra rebels throughout the 1980s, has a strong lead ahead of the election, but he would face a tough run-off if he fails to win in the first round of voting.

When Mr Ortega was in power, his government reinforced a law giving women the right to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or if three doctors stated a woman's life was at risk.

Hundreds of people had protested outside the National Assembly in the capital Managua last week, saying the law would be a death sentence for the some 400 women who suffer ectopic pregnancies in Nicaragua each year.

"They are forcing women and girls to die. They are not pro-life, they are pro-death," said protester Xiomara Luna.

But Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, the influential former archbishop of Managua, recently urged voters to back candidates "who look after life, who defend life from conception".

Meanwhile, in Australia, Catholic Social Services (CSSA) Executive Director, Frank Quinlan, welcomed a Federal government announcement that pregnancy support counselling MBS items will be available from 1 November 2006 to help women who are concerned about a pregnancy.

Pregnancy counselling has a place in the community, not just in the medical centre, Mr Quinlan said according to a CSSA statement.

"Agencies which provide high standard, non judgmental counselling deserve to be supported in their work.

"These initiatives acknowledge that pregnancy is an issue for the community, not just for the doctors' clinic.

"This welcome announcement provides financial support to a role that community based agencies have played for decades," he said.

Nicaragua passes tough abortion law (Herald-Sun, 29/10/06)
Pregnancy counselling finds its place in the community (CSSA Media Release, 28/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Bishops Nicaragua
Catholic Social Services Australia

Nicaraguan cardinal forgives Sandinistas (CathNews, 21/7/04)

Nicaragua votes to ban abortions (BBC News, 26/10/06)

30 Oct 2006