updated 11/19/2006 2:12:27 PM ET 2006-11-19T19:12:27

Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos signed a bill Friday banning abortion in all cases — including when a woman's life is endangered — despite opposition from doctors, women's rights groups and diplomats.

Presidential spokesman Lindolfo Mojarretz told The Associated Press that Bolanos signed the bill Friday and that it will become law when it appears in the official register on Saturday.

Previously, Nicaragua allowed abortions if three doctors certified that the woman's health was at risk. The law signed Friday eliminates that century-old exception.

The six-year prison term for carry out illegal abortions remains unchanged under the new law. There had been doubt about whether Bolanos would sign the law because he had sought stiffer sentences of up to 30 years for women who had abortions and for those who aided them.

Chile and El Salvador have similarly strict abortion laws.

Most countries in heavily Catholic Latin America permit the procedure if the woman's life is in danger but ban it in cases resulting from rape or incest.

Cuba permits abortions within the first 12 weeks pregnancy and Colombia recently authorized them in the case of a severely malformed fetus, if rape or incest were involved or if the woman's life was in danger.

The National Assembly passed the bill Oct. 26 despite a letter from European Union diplomats and United Nations representatives asking them to wait until after Nicaragua's Nov. 5 presidential election.

Nicaragua's medical association also asked for a delay, saying the issue had become politicized.

President-elect Daniel Ortega, who once favored abortion rights, changed his stance and supported the law after strongly embracing Roman Catholicism and winning over voters in a country with a conservative religious tradition.

Nicaragua is about 85 percent Catholic, with many of the remainder belonging to conservative evangelical churches.

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