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Will El Salvador's Anti-Choice Government Let a Pregnant Woman Die? | The Nation

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Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.

Will El Salvador's Anti-Choice Government Let a Pregnant Woman Die?


Protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in San Salvador in support of Beatriz and her family. (Reuters/Ulises Rodriguez)

Yesterday, after a long delay, El Salvador’s Supreme Court voted 4-1 to deny a young woman the abortion she needs to save her life. Beatriz, who is 22 and the mother of an infant son, is terribly sick with lupus, hypertension and kidney disease. Her doctors have said she is likely to die if forced to continue the pregnancy. The final touch: Beatriz’s fetus is anencephalic (missing most of its brain) and will not be able to survive outside the womb. If ever “right to life” was a contradiction in terms, this is that case.

Jodi Jacobson has details here.

Ten weeks ago, when Beatriz was in the first trimester, the minister of health said she should be allowed to have an abortion. The country’s powerful Catholic Church and far right erupted. Despite stern calls from the office of the UN Commission for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes has dithered as Beatriz’s condition deteriorates and an abortion becomes more dangerous: she is now 24 weeks pregnant.

Since 1998, El Salvador has had a complete no-exceptions ban on abortion, promoted by the country’s powerful Catholic Church and passed with the votes of legislators from the former left-wing movement FMLN—because if there’s one thing right and left agree on, it’s that women’s lives are less important than achieving political power. (Daniel Ortega made the same move in Nicaragua in a successful bid for church support.)

Since the ban, the Central American Women’s network reports that over 600 Salvadoran women have been imprisoned for having abortions, including miscarriages and stillbirths suspected of being the result of abortion. A word to the wise: when US abortion opponents insist they would never put women on trial for terminating a pregnancy, be skeptical.

Beatriz’s case has captured international attention. We need to keep the pressure on so that her life can be saved. Soon it may be too late.

What you can do:

Sign the petition to Pope Francis urging him to step in and save Beatriz. (I know, I know: things are pretty bad when we have to ask the pope to save a woman from abortion opponents!)

Donate to the fund to help Beatriz pay for her medical care. Any funds left over will go to Salvadoran organization Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Ético, Terapéutico y Eugenésico, which is leading the legal fight to save Beatriz.

Tweet to the President of El Salvador @mauriciofunesSV.

Sample tweets:

Listen to the UN! Save Beatriz! The whole world is watching @mauriciofunesSV #savebeatriz

What about Beatriz’s right to life? Her human rights? @mauriciofunesSV #savebeatriz

Why is the US military more intent on protecting its command structure than victims of sexual assault? Read Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column.

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