El Salvador Supreme Court Denies Pregnant Woman Life-Saving Abortion


In El Salvador, the “right to life” means the probable death of a pregnant woman; the country’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a woman who doctors say will die if she gives birth to the non-viable fetus inside of her can’t get an abortion.

“Beatriz” is a 22-year-old Salvadoran woman who suffers from complications related to lupus and kidney disease. She’s also five months pregnant with a non-viable anencephalic fetus (that means it doesn’t have a brain). Doctors say she will likely die giving birth, and that her child would die after a few hours, too. Hmm, abortion or two nearly certain deaths? We’ll take “abortion,” please!

Only problem: El Salvador has the strictest anti-abortion law in Latin America/one of the harshest in the entire world. The country forbids abortion at any time for any reason, including rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother (or child, apparently.) Under the current law, anyone who performs an abortion and/or a woman who lets someone give her an abortion can be imprisoned for up to eight years, although many women end up being sentenced for aggravated homicide, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. According to a 2012 report from the Central American Women’s Network, 628 women have been imprisoned in El Salvador since the draconian law was enacted in 1998. Twenty-four of these women were indicted for “aggravated murder,” after an abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth.

What is the point of a pro-life policy if it results in EVERYBODY INVOLVED DYING? That’s what authorities from the Specialized National Maternity Hospital in San Salvador argued (less snarkily, we’re sure, but we need sarcasm to get through stories like this one) when they requested legal permission to perform Beatriz’s medically necessary abortion more than 40 days ago. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which was all, “ehh, let’s just put our faith in God and see what he decides. PRO LIFE 4 LIFE!”

“We cannot appeal the case because this was the last step” said Victor Hugo Mata, Beatriz’s lawyer, in a telephone interview with CBSNews.com after the decision was taken.

In case you’re wondering how Beatriz is feeling — her country’s most powerful judges certainly aren’t — you can watch the video above. An excerpt: “I don’t want to do it but I know the child won’t live and I think it is the only way to save my life.” She’s currently in the hospital, separated from her 14-month old son (possible evidence she’s not a sinful baby-hater) and her husband.


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