Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 91 | Febrero 1989




Envío team

Abortion, long a taboo subject in Nicaragua, has become the focus of an increasingly heated debate. In early January AMNLAE, the Nicaraguan Women's Association, called for legalization of abortion. AMNLAE's formal petition to the Nicaraguan National Assembly, supported by the farm workers' association, ATC, and the teachers' union, ANDEN, among others, called abortion "a right of all Nicaraguan women."

In late 1985, for the first time, a public debate on abortion took place in the pages of Barricada, the FSLN's daily paper. After a flurry of publicity, the issue was placed on the back burner. When the Nicaraguan constitutional draft was discussed during 1986, the Conservative Party proposed an amendment that would have constitutionally outlawed abortion. The Sandinista bloc in the National Assembly, responding to concerns raised by women in a number of open forums held across the country, was able to prevent that, but abortion remained illegal.

Many women continued to seek and obtain abortions, however, and more and more women have been turning to whatever means is available to them, often with disastrous consequences. In the first "De Cara al Pueblo" town meeting held exclusively with women in September 1987, a number of women sharply criticized the policy on abortion. One woman pointed out that in Nicaragua, as in other countries where abortion is illegal, middle and upper class women are able to afford a safe, if illegal, abortion, while poor women are forced into the hands of back-street abortionists or into the desperate situation of self-induced abortions.

The strong influence of the Catholic Church makes abortion a delicate subject for many to broach, but there seems to be a trend towards viewing abortion in other than religious terms. Comandante Carlos Núñez, president of the National Assembly, said that 1,200 people had been surveyed in Managua regarding the legalization of abortion. The majority of those surveyed said that abortion is primarily an economic decision and the debate about legalization must consider that. That isn’t likely in some sectors. Bishop Bismarck Carballo, director of Radio Católica and one of Cardinal Miguel Obando’s closest associates, has publicly lashed out at groups pushing for legalization of abortion.

Milú Vargas, who heads up the National Assembly’s Women’s Secretariat, said that while abortion should not be considered a method of birth control, outlawing abortion is impractical and hypocritical. “If we had to imprison all the women who have had abortions along with all the people who helped them, a huge number of women would be detained.” She mentioned the high cost of illegal abortions, and emphasized the great risk to women’s lives posed by illegal abortions. The number of deaths resulting from illegal abortions has been steadily climbing in Nicaragua and is a cause of much concern among health professionals and women’s groups.

AND EN, the Association of Nicaraguan Teachers, has called for a massive sex education campaign and urges the active and aggressive participation of the Ministries of Health and Education, as well as the mass media. The proposal to legalize abortion will be introduced in the 1989 legislative session of the National Assembly.

The Fourth Biennial Congress on The Fate and Hope of the Earth" will be held in Managua in June of this year. It is the first time this conference will take place in the Third World, and it will bring together environmental, peace and development activists from all over the world. The official conference documents note that the Third World is "suffering the greatest human and resource exploitation and environmental degradation."

Nicaraguan ecologists have long been concerned about a number of environmental problems that are becoming more critical by the year: rapid and indiscriminate deforestation, excessive and dangerous reliance on pesticides, the near-total contamination of Lake Managua, among others. In fighting many of these problems, ecologists have to raise the consciousness of the population at large, as well as key sectors in the government, about the urgency of the global ecological crisis that has its very specific and perilous manifestations in Nicaragua.

An international conference planning meeting held in Managua in December was particularly poignant, coming as it did on the heels of Hurricane Joan's passage through Nicaragua. The hurricane's ecological damage has yet to be thoroughly calculated and makes all the more urgent a change in consciousness and will towards action.

By holding the conference in Nicaragua, conference organizers hope to call attention to the problems of economic underdevelopment and its particular ecological consequences along with the results of helter-skelter development driven primarily by economic interests. In addition, the fact that the conference is to take place in Central America brings the question of the ecological impact of so-called "low-intensity" military conflicts sharply into focus. In the words of the conference organizers, this "shows us that peace must be the fundamental prerequisite for solving the social, economic and ecological problems of the region—and of the planet."

Still reeling from the damage wrought by Hurricane Joan, Nicaragua sent 30 tons of medical supplies to the victims of the December catastrophe in Armenia. The earthquake touched many Managua residents who remember all too well the 1972 cataclysm that tore Nicaragua's capital apart. In addition to the supplies (medicines, blood and blankets), the Ministry of Health organized a medical brigade that flew to the Soviet Union to assist in relief work.

President Daniel Ortega kicked off a national blood drive at the Nicaraguan Red Cross several days after the disaster. One donor, Feiland Cerda, commented that he would give blood "even if it were for North Americans, because people have to be willing to help each other out when tragedy strikes."

In the wake of Hurricane Joan, the Inter-American Development Bank has donated $200,000 to Nicaragua to be used for construction of houses in the most severely affected areas. The IDB recently approved a $30 million loan for Nicaragua, earmarked for the acquisition of 59 small fishing boats in the Atlantic Coast region. The IDB's representative in Nicaragua, Paulo Romero, called the country's fishing industry a potential "gold mine" and said the bank is interested in assisting Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America in development projects of this order.

Asked whether the US policy of pressuring the IDB to take an anti-Nicaragua position would continue with the Bush Administration, Romero commented that it was difficult to predict what path the new administration would take, adding that "we all hope that these problems can be resolved as soon as possible."

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