Center for Reproductive Rights Implores Supreme Court of El Salvador To Authorize Emergency Abortion for Woman Facing Life-Threatening Complications
(PRESS RELEASE) “Beatríz” (a pseudonym) is a 22-year old Salvadoran woman who is 5 months pregnant and experiencing severe health complications related to her lupus and kidney disease. She is also carrying an anencephalic fetus (without a brain) that is not viable. The condition of the fetus has exacerbated Beatríz’s declining health. Her doctors determined that the right treatment for her is an abortion. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court in El Salvador completed oral hearings last week on an application for appeal (amparo) for Beatríz, requesting authorization for medical personnel to end her pregnancy without criminal prosecution because the pregnancy threatens her health and life. Authorities from the Specialized National Maternity Hospital in San Salvador requested legal permission to perform the abortion more than 35 days ago, and when the hearing ended last week the Supreme Court stated that it would announce its decision within the next 15 days. 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. “Denying essential health care when it is necessary to save a woman’s life is cruel, inhumane treatment and a violation of international human rights,” said Mónica Arango, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Beatríz’s doctors’ diagnosis is clear and the Supreme Court has all the information it needs to act.” “It is deplorable that the court continues to deliberate while the risks to Beatríz’s life worsen by the day.” The international human rights community and the general public have been vocal in their outcry over Beatríz’s plight. In late April, United Nations independent human rights experts called on the government of El Salvador to provide Beatriz with life-saving medical treatment. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also stated that doctors should be allowed to take any necessary measures to protect Beatriz’s health. 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. On March 21, 2012, the Center and la Colectiva de Mujeres por el Desarrollo Local of El Salvador filed the case of “Manuela,” a woman who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after having obstetric complications, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 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. Her death left her two small children orphaned. A recent study by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute reinforced the fact that restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower rates of abortion. According to the study, the 2008 abortion rate in Latin America—a region where abortion is highly restricted in almost all countries—was 32 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, while in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds, the rate is just 12 per 1,000. More information about abortion restrictions around the globe is available at CRR’s interactive World Abortion Laws map.