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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 04:02 GMT
Abortion ruling splits Nicaragua

By the BBC's Nick Miles
Central America correspondent

The Nicaraguan authorities say that the parents and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who received an abortion two weeks ago will not face criminal charges.

The girl, who became pregnant after being raped, received an abortion in a private clinic - an operation that the health minister considered a crime.

But the Nicaraguan Attorney General, Maria del Carmen Solorzano, said the abortion did not break any laws because it was carried out to save the life of the girl.

Child protester
The family was supported by women's and children's groups
This is a case that has brought Nicaragua's stringent abortion laws into the spotlight.

They only allow abortions when the mother's life is in danger, or when the foetus has severe deformities.

It's the type of law that is common across much of Catholic Latin America.

A panel of three doctors was set up two weeks ago to decide whether the nine-year-old girl, known only as Rosa, could legally have an abortion.

Unclear ruling

The panel came up with an ambiguous decision, saying that Rosa's life could be threatened by both having the baby and aborting it.

Her parents took that as a green light to terminate the pregnancy.

But it caused widespread condemnation from the church who excommunicated the parents and the doctors who carried out the procedure.

The Nicaraguan Health Minister, Lucia Salvo, called the abortion a crime and prosecutors threatened to bring charges against those responsible.

Women's rights groups in Nicaragua have welcomed the decision not to press charges and it could open the way for a more general debate within the congress to liberalise the abortion laws.

There is considerable public support for that, but also a great deal of opposition from the Roman Catholic church.

Last week the country's bishops wrote an open letter to the government asking whether there was any real difference between abortion and terrorist suicide bombings.

Raped Nicaraguan girl aborts baby
21 Feb 03 |  Americas
Nicaragua child rape suspect held
19 Feb 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Nicaragua
04 Nov 02 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nicaragua
04 Jan 03 |  Americas


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