This paper analyses discussion on a proposed reform to the abortion law in Nicaragua between 1999 and 2002, as a struggle between different actors - politicians, religious leaders, doctors and feminists - over the meaning of abortion, motherhood and sexuality, and ultimately the value of women's lives. It shows how the interplay of gender discourses and political practices shaped the process of discussion: on one hand by making a broad alliance against abortion possible, on the other by highlighting the contradictory role of the women's movement in this discussion, between a dominant leadership and a low mobilizing capacity. The paper argues for the need of an inwards oriented process within the women's movement, that departs from the recognition of the personal issues at stake for women in order to break the silence surrounding abortion, such as prevailing feelings of fear and guilt. This entails recognition of the limits of the liberal feminist claim to 'abortion as a free choice', as a discourse of rights that is disconnected from the everyday life conditions and constraints under which women make choices and develop their notions of rights.

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Culture, Health and Sexuality
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Heumann, S. (2007). Abortion and politics in Nicaragua: The women's movement in the debate on the abortion law reform 1999-2002. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 9(3), 217–231. doi:10.1080/13691050600859062