I was on a plane coming back from Mexico when I first encountered the stories of children and young women in El Salvador suffering from the country’s universal criminalization of abortion, a law that is now more than a decade old. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Sunday, September 28, Amnesty International is taking part in the International Day to Decriminalize Abortion. The importance of access to safe, legal abortion is clearly demonstrated in Amnesty’s new report, On the Brink of Death: Violence Against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Teresa Vargas Valdes, Chile Country Specialist and Tarah Demant, Women’s Human Rights Thematic Specialist
In Chile, it’s criminal to get an abortion, even when the life of the mother is at risk. Since 1991, several congressional bills have been presented in Chile in order to allow exceptions to this restrictive law, the most recent of which was in April 2012, when the Senate rejected three motions that would have decriminalized the legal interruption of pregnancy in three different contexts: when the life of the mother is at risk, rape and when the fetus is not viable.
The current total abortion ban allows for not such exceptions, and this extreme restriction on women’s reproductive health rights not only conflicts with international law, it also puts the lives of countless women and girls at risk.
As you know, activism inside El Salvador (led by the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion) and around the globe helped save Beatriz, the young Salvadoran mother whose life was jeopardized by the absolute ban on abortion in El Salvador.
We would like to share a note that Beatriz wrote to express her gratitude to all those who took part in this effort:
To my friends from the Colectivo Feminista and everywhere else:
I want to thank you for having supported me all the way, and without you I think I wouldn’t have been able to stand being in the hospital.
I also want to thank you for all the actions you took for my life.
This situation has been very difficult and without your support I wouldn’t have been able to get through it.
After over two months of dragging its feet, the Salvadoran government has finally acted to save Beatriz’s life. On Monday, Beatriz, the young mother we’ve posted frequently about, received an early cesarean section and is now recovering in the hospital.
Our activism helped to save Beatriz’s life.
The hundreds of thousands of people around the world who mobilized on Beatriz’s behalf helped make it possible for her to – upon recovery – be able to return home to her family which is what she has wanted all along. Because of this overwhelming support, Beatriz was never alone in her struggle to access the medical care she wanted and needed.
Beatriz’s life is literally in the hands of the Salvadoran government. Demand that they immediately grant her the life-saving medical treatment she needs - before it’s too late.
About Beatriz’s Case
As you may have read recently on this blog, Beatriz from El Salvador is 4.5 months pregnant and suffers from lupus and other medical conditions, including kidney disease related to lupus. She also suffered serious complications during her previous pregnancy, resulting in her being deemed at high-risk of maternal mortality should this pregnancy progress. Three scans of her fetus have confirmed it is anencephalic (lacking a large part of the brain and skull). Almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after.
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.
Check out our list of 10 absurd arrests and sentences of the year. You might be surprised to learn what can get you thrown in jail in a few places around the world, and how harsh the sentences are once you’re there.
1. Posting photos of teddy bears.
Anton Suryapin of Belarus spent more than a month in detention after posting photos of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane. The bears were part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising company calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Anton is charged of “organizing illegal migration” simply because he was the first upload photos of the teddy bears, and still faces a prison sentence of up to seven years.
After allegedly “publicly insulting the King” on Twitter, a Bahraini man had his six-month prison sentence upheld on appeal, while three others are serving four-month prison sentences. Article 214 of Bahrain’s penal code makes it a crime to offend the King.
3. Opposing the death penalty.
Ireland is not the only nation with strict abortion laws that cost women their lives.
Since 1998, El Salvador has had a total ban on abortions, under any circumstances. In March of this year, Salvadoran police arrested a woman (“Mery”) when she sought medical treatment after a clandestine abortion. The medical providers reported her to the police—as required by law. In addition to the physical complications associated with the abortion, she showed clear signs of emotional distress and panic.
Instead of providing “Mery” with counseling, the authorities sentenced her to two years in El Salvador’s violent, overcrowded prison system. Her emotional state deteriorated and she tried to kill herself in September 2012. Prison authorities responded by handcuffing “Mery” to a bed in a psychiatric hospital and placing an armed guard in her room. Amnesty is especially concerned because she has been cut off from both the psychological help she needs as well as legal counsel.
By Howard Eissenstat, Turkey Country Specialist
I guess Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, wanted to change the subject.
In May, Turkey’s ruling AK Party was busily trying to explain away its culpability in the massacre of civilians in the Roboski/Uludere airstrike by implying that, since the victims were smugglers, they may have simply gotten what they deserved. Even the largely cowed Turkish press sensed that the government had staked out a position so outlandish that it was only embarrassing itself.
Then with characteristic bravado, Erdoğan connected the massacre of Kurdish villagers to women’s reproductive health. “Every abortion is an Uludere,” he said to one delegation of supporters. Suddenly women’s reproductive health has become the major issue of the day, not the massacre of civilians by Turkish armed forces. As Andrew Finkel notes in his sharp analysis, “With that single stroke he maneuvered a Turkish woman’s right to choose into a place it had never been: at the center of the political agenda. This is a mistake that may have tragic consequences.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST