Officially, El Salvador does not have capital punishment. The result will be the same, however, for “Beatriz,” a 22-year-old whose “crime” consists of needing an abortion to save her life. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador law under all circumstances, including rape, incest, and maternal health. Beatriz has a history of lupus, kidney problems, and other health conditions that her doctors have indicated place her at high-risk for pregnancy-related death. She is currently four and a half months pregnant. Preventing her from receiving an abortion is therefore comparable to a death sentence. This, in turn, will leave her one-year-old son motherless.
But surely, you may think, some Salvadoran doctor will ignore the law for the higher goal of saving this woman’s life. In November, I posted an account of another Salvadoran woman, “Mery,” who was turned in to the police by her own doctors after suffering complications from a clandestine abortion. While this may appear shocking to readers in the United States, Salvadoran law requires doctors to do so. “Beatriz” and her doctors have to worry that someone will turn them in if they proceed without explicit government authorization.
The Salvadoran government’s position is even more difficult to understand because Beatriz’s doctors have determined that the fetus she is carrying is deformed to such a degree that it is highly unlikely to survive after birth. How can the life of a young mother be worth sacrificing for an unviable pregnancy?
Please tell Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes and Health Minister Dr. María Isabel Rodríguez to allow the Beatriz and her doctors to make this life-or-death situation without government interference. Amnesty International also urges the Salvadoran government decriminalize abortion and assure that women and girls have access to abortion in any case where it is necessary to protect their health or in which the pregnancy is the result of rape.