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Back in the 1980s, Nicaragua was a fashionable leftwing political cause, with organizations across the world supporting the National Sandinista Liberation Front led by Daniel Ortega and condemning the US government for financing the rebel Contras.

Voted out in 1990, Ortega made a comeback in November 2006 and took office in January 2007, but those decades have made a difference. These days he plays down his Marxism and crucially, has changed his views on religion. Once a defender of Nicaragua's limited abortion rights and a critic of the Catholic Church, he has re-embraced Catholicism and since autumn 2006, his government has banned all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening conditions.

Reporter Kate Seelye and producer Paul Kittel investigate what this means in practice. At a hospital unit for women with pregnancy complications, she meets an expectant woman with a severe heart condition. If she continues her heart medication, she may miscarry or the baby may be deformed. If she stops it, she may die. Her doctor confirms that her life is in the balance but that abortion is not an option; he cannot break the law.

One doctor who says she does not believe in abortion admits to nevertheless carrying out illegal but safe terminations, explaining simply: 'I do believe in saving women's lives'.

There’s widespread public support, and when Seelye talks to a poverty-stricken pregnant rape victim she says she does not think she should be allowed to have an abortion.

"..measured but hard-hitting..."
- The Observer

- The Sunday Times

First Broadcast

March 14, 2008



Producer Director

Paul Kittel


Kate Seelye

Executive Producer

Eamonn Matthews


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