The congressional vote which today eliminated all exceptions to the general penalization of abortion in Nicaragua constitutes a direct threat to human rights, said Human Rights Watch. The new penal code penalizes abortion even when it is carried out to save the pregnant woman’s life, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

“The new penal code doesn’t just go against basic human rights: it goes against fundamental principles of humanity,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division. “Human Rights Watch knows from experience what it generally means to be pregnant as the result of rape, or to have an unsafe abortion: misery, desperation, and even the death of the pregnant woman.”

The reform has been criticized by international institutions, including United Nations agencies, for taking place in a politicized environment, since the vote happened on the eve of the presidential elections in Nicaragua, scheduled for November 5.

“Women shouldn’t go to prison for having abortions, it’s that simple; and even less should they have to risk their lives because of complications during pregnancy,” said Vivanco. “But instead of protecting the rights of the citizens they represent, the political parties have used women’s bodies as electoral battle ground.”