Salvadoran Supreme Court Denies Woman Life-Saving Abortion

(PRESS RELEASE) The Supreme Court in El Salvador ruled today that a woman facing serious health complications in her pregnancy cannot have an abortion that could save her life.
 
“Beatriz,” a 22-year-old Salvadoran woman who is five months pregnant and suffering from complications related to lupus and kidney disease, is currently carrying a non-viable anencephalic fetus (without a brain) and recently requested authorization for medical personnel to perform an abortion without criminal prosecution because the pregnancy threatens her health and life.
 
Said Lilian Sepúlveda, director of the global legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
 
“The refusal of the Salvadoran Supreme Court to allow Beatriz to obtain a medical procedure that could save her life is an appalling and disgraceful violation of her fundamental human rights.
 
“El Salvador’s ban has not only resulted in the denial of medically-necessary abortions for women like Beatriz who desperately need them, but also in the imprisonment of far too many women who have suffered miscarriages or obstetric complications.
 
“Salvadoran women have been paying an unacceptably high price for El Salvador’s abortion ban. Women should never lose their fundamental rights, or be subject to such cruel and inhuman treatment, simply because they have become pregnant.”
 
The Constitutional Chamber of the Salvadoran Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case earlier this month, after authorities from the Specialized National Maternity Hospital in San Salvador requested legal permission to perform Beatriz’s medically necessary abortion more than 40 days ago.
 
El Salvador’s ban on abortion is one of the most extreme in the world—prohibiting the procedure even when necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life and imposing harsh criminal penalties on both women and physicians. Under current Salvadoran law, anyone who performs an abortion with the woman’s consent, or a woman who self-induces or consents to someone else inducing her abortion, can be imprisoned for up to eight years, though in reality most women end up being prosecuted and sentenced for aggravated homicide, which is punishable up to 30 years in prison.
 
The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked for more than 12 years to expose the consequences that the blanket abortion ban in El Salvador has on the lives of women. In March 2012, Center and la Colectiva de Mujeres por el Desarrollo Local of El Salvador filed a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of “Manuela,” a mother of two who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after having obstetric complications. Manuela, who suffered from advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma and did not receive appropriate medical treatment for the disease, died less than a year after being sent to the Ilopango Women’s Prison.