In El Salvador, Yet Another Woman’s Life Subordinated to Non-Viable Fetus


See all our coverage of Beatriz here.

Petition the El Salvadoran President and Supreme Court for Beatriz’s life here.

Beatriz wants to live. A 22-year-old Salvadoran from a poor, rural community, Beatriz (a pseudonym to protect privacy) suffers from chronic and severe medical conditions. She is the mother of an infant. And she is roughly 18 weeks pregnant with an anencephalic fetus, a fetus without a brain. Doctors at the Maternity Hospital determined that the pregnancy is life-threatening, and Beatriz requested that Salvadoran medical personnel perform an abortion, but a 1998 law in El Salvador prohibits all abortions, without exception.

The Salvadoran feminist organization Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugénesico (Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion), which has been working to decriminalize abortion in the country since 2009, petitioned the Salvadoran Supreme Court on April 15 to intervene and to direct medical personnel to provide without fear of criminal prosecution the procedures Beatriz needs to save her life. Under current law, both Beatriz and any medical personnel involved in an abortion would face criminal charges and prison time. The court responded with a temporary directive that medical personnel provide the care necessary to guarantee her life and health while they make a decision regarding the petition for an abortion. Medical personnel were also directed to present to the court within five days a report on the condition of the mother and the fetus to inform their deliberations.

Within the past few days Amnesty International has initiated a petition asking for life-saving medical care, including an abortion; the United Nations has spoken; and the Salvadoran Minister of Health, Dr. Maria Isabel Rodriguez, has requested that the Supreme Court approve the request. Dr. Rodriguez emphasized that Beatriz’s kidney function continues to deteriorate as the pregnancy advances, and that the public health system is ready to perform an abortion. The Salvadoran Attorney General for Human Rights also supports the request.

At a press conference the Agrupación convened in San Salvador on April 18, Esther Major, an Amnesty International representative in El Salvador, characterized the way Beatriz is being treated as “nothing less than cruel and inhuman.”

“While we are talking, while the Court is thinking and the government is delaying, Beatriz is suffering. … The Salvadoran government has clear obligations, international as well as domestic, to protect Beatriz’s life, and to assure that Beatriz can access vital treatment as soon as possible.”

Legal reforms in 1998 in El Salvador, promulgated by conservative religious forces, outlawed  abortion without exception. Previously it was permitted if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, the mother’s life was in danger, or the fetus was not viable. In addition, a constitutional amendment was added declaring that life begins at conception, which means that prosecutors can charge women who seek abortions with aggravated homicide, punishable by 30 to 50 years in prison, rather than the lesser crime of abortion, which carries a term of two to eight years.

Threats of prosecution and prison terms are not to be taken lightly under the 1998 law. The Agrupación has mounted legal and educational campaigns to secure the release of six women from prison. Since no comprehensive data exist in the country, the Agrupación is conducting its own research, which reveals that currently at least 24 women are serving prison terms of up to 40 years for abortion or aggravated homicide related to abortion charges.

The Sí a la Vida (Yes to Life) Foundation, an anti-abortion religious organization, expressed its belief that feminist groups are exploiting and manipulating Beatriz in order to legalize abortion in the country. An opinion column in the Salvadoran press on April 17 pleaded with Beatriz, “Don’t kill it!” while obscuring the fact that the fetus is anencephalic and cannot sustain life outside the uterus, using language such as “you are expecting a baby that might be born sick.”

Beatriz waits as the Agrupación works through the restricted avenues available to save her life and perhaps create fissures in the wall of political and religious opposition to the decriminalization of abortion even under limited circumstances for women in the country. For Beatriz, the eyes and voices of the world constitute her hope for life.

Beatriz is not the only woman for whom death looms as a highly possible outcome of pregnancy. Since all abortions are illegal in the country, they all take place in clandestine conditions. The Agrupación’s as-yet-unpublished research from 2010 and 2011 finds that perhaps 35,000 unsafe abortions (as defined by the World Health Organization) take place every year in El Salvador.

As in the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland in 2012, Beatriz’s life could also be subordinated to that of a non-viable fetus. Although El Salvador refers to itself as a secular nation, the Catholic Church, conservative evangelical churches, and groups such as Sí a la Vida wield overwhelming political power and influence.

Beatriz’s situation becomes the most recent and most urgent of the many the Agrupcación has addressed. The long-term goals of the group focus on substantial reforms to the country’s draconian abortion law. In addition, since 2009 the Agrupación has organized legal and public education campaigns to gain the release of six women who were serving prison terms of up to 30 years for the “crimes” of abortion or aggravated homicide related to abortion. The group continues to work on the release of at least 24 more women still in prison, according to the research they have done. As the Agrupación gathers data on women who have been formally charged with abortion or aggravated homicide, a clear pattern emerges of the selective prosecution of young, poor, rural women. In addition, court documents in numerous cases reflect obvious medical, prosecutorial, and judicial errors or negligence. In several of the cases where women regained their freedom from prison, appeal processes revealed that no evidence that an abortion occurred or was provoked by the woman was ever presented in court, and in some cases evidence demonstrated that the fetal death resulted from natural causes and was not caused by the woman. Money speaks, and if Beatriz had the financial resources, she might have been able to secure appropriate health care in a private facility where she would have a greater  probability of receiving life-saving treatment without fear of imprisonment.

Beatriz’s life is threatened by her health conditions and a high-risk pregnancy. However, the deeper threats come from an intractable and misogynistic political and religious system which criminalizes women for being young, poor, rural women.  Right now the eyes and voices of  the world constitute Beatriz’ hope for life. She wants to live.

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  • HeilMary1

    Too bad the mother-killing fetal idolators can’t be arrested for using fetuses to murder such women. They should be globally shamed and arrested by foreign governments if they travel abroad.

  • HeilMary1

    And meanwhile, priests who rape children get zero jail time! And where are the usual fetal idolatry trolls to pontificate on the “selfish convenience” of Beatriz as she fights for her own right to life?

    • Ingrid Heimark

      We are not fetal idolators when we are opposed to abortion, we simply award the fetus the same rights as everyone else. Not more not less, except in self-defense when we acknowledge the fetus might not survive when the mother’s life is at risk

      • HeilMary1

        You still are a fetal idolator when you oppose abortion for all other health-threatening reasons.

      • http://twitter.com/Tonks07 Mandy

        “nowhere in that biological development do you have a right to life at the expense of another’s body.

        A fetus doesn’t any more than a fully grown woman does.”

        You and your ilk are trying to grant a fetus rights that no one child OR adult has. If you say a fetus has a right to force a woman to use her internal organs as life support than adult women deserve that same right. Forced organ donations for all! What you doing with both kidneys! You only need one! Someone somewhere id DYING without it! What about you eye? You only need one? Please allow yourself to have your internal organs picked over because someone…somewhere..right now…is dying without YOUR internal organs. /over-the-top sarcasm

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.neely Kathleen Elizabeth Neely

    this is a load of crap… she will give birth to a baby that will then pass on naturally and she will be just fine , yes it is difficult and very sad because losing a baby is difficult, but she will most likely be just fine, quit whining!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.eilerson Sarah Eilerson

      The only whining I ever hear is from pro-liars about the poor little non-viable fetuses that women have to lug around knowing they won’t live anyway. Good grief, scrape it out and let her get on with her life. If YOU want to carry around dying fetuses inside your uterus, more power to ya, if that’s your kink.

      • HeilMary1

        Kathleen is sanctimonious enough to get whatever abortions she needs, then lie about it afterwards and continue tormenting women like Beatriz. Kathleen should be in jail for homicidal hypocrisy.

    • HeilMary1

      Munchausen by Proxy mother killer, YOU are crap for forcing an unhealthy, impoverished woman to die for a brainless, non-viable fetus and leave her healthy child orphaned for priests to molest. Too bad forced-birther terrorists like you can’t die in her place!

    • Kenia

      Oh my god saids the person who is just fine and healthy with their life talking about some woman who is struggling and possibly might die cause of this! This isn’t you, your not In her shoes and your no one to judge! “Quit whining”? Please

      • Kenia

        Like seriously do you have anything else to do with your life?

    • HeilMary1

      And since you are a hypocritical Vatican-disobeying birth control pill popper / basher of babies born intersexed GAY, what if Beatriz’s fetus was also diagnosed intersex gay? Would you then approve of Beatriz’s life-saving abortion, or are you salivating to bash that “sinful” fetus for its “deviant life-style choice”?

      And you know the Vatican and most fetal idolators consider the pill to be an abortifacient also! — Never mind that you posted on Facebook that you need it for health reasons — kind of like Beatriz needing an abortion TO SAVE HER LIFE!

    • HeilMary1

      According to the Vatican, you have excommunicated yourself for relying on the pill instead of UNnatural Family Unplanning!

      And regarding your disgustingly bigoted comments about gays on Facebook, have you ever had your gender tested? Reproduction is not proof of gender! You could be XXY intersexed from in utero absorption of a male twin or microchimerism from older brothers. You demand tolerance for your own fixed cleft lip, then heap contempt for people born with gender variations! What cosmic selfish hypocrisy and medical ignorance!

      • http://www.facebook.com/ella.warnock.7 Ella Warnock

        Kathleen loves Jesus and “just about everyone.” Except, of course Beatriz the poor Salvadoran who has shitty health care, which is immoral. But Kathleen “can’t stand immorality or even talking about that stuff.”

        Like, ya know, stuff about poor women who need to just carry their dying fetuses around for a while so all the priests and nuns and angels, and STUFF, will be happy! Yes indeed, I believe Kathleen is about a mile wide and an inch deep. Oh, and she doesn’t worship Jesus, she worships fetuses, which is idolatry and that’s, ya know, like, bad stuff!

        • HeilMary1

          I clicked on her name and all her Facebook comments came up. She contradicts herself throughout, and if you scroll to the bottom, she insists on her own reproductive freedom, but for others, not so much!

    • HeilMary1

      And you also had an ABORTION D & C for a “miscarriage”, yet you are selfish enough to demand that Beatriz die for a non-viable fetus! You really are a monster hypocrite!

      • http://www.facebook.com/ella.warnock.7 Ella Warnock

        Hers was moral. 9_9

    • HeilMary1

      And you used to be pro-choice! What made you join the crazy Dark Side?

    • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

      Very glib and easy to say when you’re not the one in that situation, It’s so easy to say what you think this woman should do as long as you don’t have to take any of the risk yourself, Kathleen. You’re a real piece of work, aren’t you?

      • HeilMary1

        And cowardly know-it-all Kathleen hasn’t bothered to come back here to defend her selfish stupidity.

    • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

      And perhaps you didn’t read the other article on our site, Which states that Beatriz “has lupus, aggravated by lupus nephritis (a kidney malfunction), which makes it very dangerous for her to be pregnant. ” And perhaps you also didn’t read that her first pregnancy was also very high-risk. But perhaps you simply just don’t care. She should just suck it up and offer up her suffering or somesuch crap. Right, Kathleen?

      • HeilMary1

        A former co-worker’s Maryland daughter-in-law has lupus and her one pregnancy was very dangerous and expensive — $40,000! I doubt impoverished Beatriz in El Salvador has such resources! And I doubt Kathleen will send Beatriz any money!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maria-Lucia/100003333853909 Maria Lucia

        Perhaps young Beatriz should not be getting pregnant so much. Just sayin’.

        • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

          And perhaps you should mind your own business and your own sex life, sweetie, since you’re not the one being forced to risk her life for something without a brain. Just sayin’.

        • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

          No, on second thought, keep right being as callous and flippant as you are, Maria. It’s ‘pro-lifers’ just like you who made me turn to the pro-choice side when I was in my teens. And even now, as I type, someone is reading your words and seeing your movement for what it really is.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Feral.9.Hex Carla Clark

          HAH, this is EL SALVADOR? Where abortion is banned even in the most severe cases? A highly CATHOLIC country? Just as misogynistic as its opposition to abortion, it probably also prevents women from getting access to contraception, y’know, like Pro-Lifers try to do, HERE. Also, in misogynistic countries, ones that oppose abortion and contraception, that is, women don’t have a lot of say when having sex. This is what YOU people support. Fucking hypocrite.

        • HeilMary1

          So you oppose even MARITAL sex? You believe frustrated husbands should got to hookers instead?

    • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

      Ahh, Pro-lifers. Always willing to sacrifice other lives, just not their own.

    • http://www.facebook.com/margoraegoyette Margo Rae Goyette

      I agree, I’m sure she will be fine. Not that I agree, that she shouldn’t be able to terminate her pregnancy.

      • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

        I”m glad you agree that she should be able to terminate the pregnancy, but the conditions that this woman has are actually life-threatening. If she is forced to continue this pregnancy and give birth to a non-viable fetus, there’s no way that you can state with confidence that she will be ‘fine’. Why should this woman be forced to risk or sacrifice her life for something that’s not even going to be born with a brain?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1196615367 Tanya Nguyễn

      did you read where it said her kidneys are failing?

    • http://www.facebook.com/Feral.9.Hex Carla Clark

      Oh, btw, China? Introduced the one-child policy because it had too many ‘generations’? The world will be just fine, sweetheart. Because more Pro-Choice women choose to continue than terminate their pregnancies, just as anti-choicers do. SFS.

    • Ingrid Heimark

      The problem is she will not be fine, and she was sick before the pregnancy and the pregnancy made her worse. There is nothing wrong in terminating a pregnancy that might kill the mother when we KNOW the baby will not live. I hope the doctors abort, and claim self-defense in court should they be prosecuted. The biggest risk to pro-lifers reputation are anti-life laws that kills a pregnant woman for a non-.viable fetus. every law that prevents life for those who can live is unjust. Abortion to save one life when two will die is a sad but right thing, today one life is lost when two will otherwise live, those are the abortions we should be focusing on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002713660098 Christina Smith

    If Beatriz dies, El Salvador will be responsible for her already-born child no longer having a mother. So much for being pro-children.

    • HeilMary1

      Don’t you know? — Orphans are pedophile priests’ favorite target!

  • Carla J

    Some governments are just plain DUMB in this regard. For example this. What if this had happened to one or two of women in the upper class. Would this government be so judging?
    It so happens that this is In the poorer class of town and to the Government. They don’t matter
    one bit. What a shame. The upper class women have no brains, the so-called lower class women have more class then the upper class ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maria-Lucia/100003333853909 Maria Lucia

    Sorry, I’m not “getting” how this pregnancy is any more threatening to her than her last one? Women have these babies quite often, how do they die from it???

    • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

      Perhaps you didn’t read the part where she has lupus and her kidneys are failing. Or perhaps like most ‘pro-lifers’, you don’t care if the woman dies, as long as the all-blessed ‘baby’ is intact. Even without a brain.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ella.warnock.7 Ella Warnock

      I’m just not getting why anyone who clearly either hasn’t actually read the article or didn’t comprehend what she read comments, basically, that “Oh well, I’m sure she’ll be fine. It’s just childbirth; nobody ever died from that, tee hee!” Kid doesn’t have a brain and isn’t going to live anyway. Time to end this farce right now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Feral.9.Hex Carla Clark

      Pregnancy is the second leading cause of death worldwide, and you don’t understand how women can DIE from it? Oi.

  • Rdzkz

    Should raise money to send her to Italy, to the Vatican steps and get care there.