There has been an overwhelming amount of global support over the past few weeks for Beatriz and those in El Salvador working tirelessly on her behalf to save her life. Much of this support has emerged online via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other outlets. Because of these digital tools, countless people are closely following events unfold in El Salvador and calling on the authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations by immediately granting Beatriz authorization for an abortion.
Will Salvadoran authorities listen to Beatriz’s plea and take action to save her life in accordance with her wishes and at the advice of the medical professionals caring for her?
Women’s human rights activists gather in El Salvador to demand Beatriz is granted the life-saving treatment she needs (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
As you’re reading this, the Salvadoran authorities are STILL biding their time discussing the merits of Beatriz’s case, the young mother we posted about earlier this month. While she’s in the hospital experiencing early stage kidney failure, the authorities are holding the key to her life that is quickly fading.
We’ve promised updates on this case. Unfortunately, we know that Beatriz has been subjected to another week of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and have no news regarding action by the authorities to save her life – in accordance with her wishes, and the recommendation of the health professionals responsible for her care.
Imagine you are in a hospital. You have lupus and you are experiencing kidney complications as a result. You have a one-year old son at home who was delivered by cesarean section weeks early because of pregnancy-related health complications. You’re pregnant again, and have been diagnosed as high-risk.
You found out after three sonograms your fetus is anencephalic, meaning that a portion of the fetus’s brain - consisting mainly of the cerebral hemispheres including the neo-cortex - doesn’t exist. With very few exceptions, fetuses with anencephaly do not make it to term and none survive infancy.
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.
Protesters at a demonstration outside the Supreme Court of Justice in San Salvador. The sign reads, “If Beatriz were your daughter, would it be illegal to save her life?”(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Agrupación Ciudadana por la despenalización del aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugénesico).
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.
More than 10,000 Catholics gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a prominent human rights defender who was murdered during the Salvadorean civil war (Photo Credit: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images).
The Salvadoran government protected these individuals from prosecution and further investigation by quickly passing a second amnesty law on March 20, 1993. The 1992 amnesty law already protected anyone not named by the Truth Commission. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for these laws to be overturned, a position supported by several rulings by the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
These events occurred just before another important milestone for El Salvador, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, an outspoken human rights defender, on March 24, 1980. The Truth Commission Report identified death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson as the individual who ordered Romero’s death. The 1993 amnesty law protected D’Aubuisson for the rest of his life.
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.
Bears being dropped. Photo via Studio Total
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.
One of the main reasons why violators continue enjoy impunity is that they target precisely those individuals who expose their crimes. The report therefore emphasizes the danger posed to journalists, bloggers, and trade unionists who speak up for human rights.
Just within the relatively small region of Central America, the report highlights four important cases of attacks on freedom of expression that seek to cover up other human rights abuses: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
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.
Earlier this week, Amnesty issued an urgent action calling on the Salvadoran government to protect journalists at Radio Victoria, a community station in rural Cabañas, and to fully investigate threats against them from a self-proclaimed death squad (grupo de extermino).
Unfortunately, this was not Amnesty’s first urgent action concerning Radio Victoria. In the summer of 2009, journalists were threatened after calling for justice in the abduction, torture, and murder of anti-mining activist Gustavo Marcelo Rivera.
While the police were quick to blame Rivera’s death on youth gangs (mareros), Radio Victoria and others believed that he was killed in retaliation for his leadership in the movement against Pacific Rim’s plan to mine gold in the area. Rivera and other activists argued that these operations would divert water from poor farmers, poison the water supply with cyanide, and fail to produce economic development. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights echoed Amnesty’s call for a thorough investigation and protective measures.