Why Is El Salvador Letting a Woman Die?


See all our coverage of Beatriz here.

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

This past month, the world has been watching a 22-year-old pregnant woman in El Salvador die, little by little. I want to say it is like watching an accident happen in slow motion, but this situation is no accident. El Salvador’s government is deliberately denying lifesaving treatment to the woman, for no reason other than that she is pregnant.

At first I couldn’t understand why.

I am not trying to be naive. I know that abortion is criminalized in all circumstances in El Salvador, and that the government therefore can hide behind the law to justify denying Beatriz (a pseudonym) medical treatment. I also know that El Salvador is a predominantly Catholic country, and that church officials are very active in the country’s political life, in particular on this issue.

But this same constellation of facts has not prevented select women in similar situations from getting access to the services they need in other countries in the region. Over the years, I have interviewed a small handful of women in Latin America who needed abortions to protect their health and lives. In most cases, after an initial negotiation with the public health ministry or prosecutor, the intervention went through on the dual condition that it got registered as “appendicitis” in the woman’s medical record, and that the women didn’t tell anyone about it. It didn’t much matter if abortion was legal or illegal in the countries where each case happened—the main motivation for allowing the intervention for the prosecutors and other public officials involved was to avoid negative publicity.

Because it doesn’t look good for El Salvador’s government officials. Sure, they are following the law. But they are also watching a woman die. And for what? The fetus Beatriz is carrying does not have a forebrain, and is likely to survive only scant hours after birth, if that. Human rights officials from the United Nations have publicly called out the situation as counter to El Salvador’s international obligations, and international media are portraying the government as “not moving a finger.”

The only reasonable explanation for the public stand-off is that Beatriz and other resource-poor women are politically expendable, and that crossing the Catholic Church is seen as worse than being hung out in the press as inhumane.

It wouldn’t be the first time poor women pay with their health and lives for politics. In Nicaragua, a mere ten days before the 2006 presidential election, the parliament voted to eliminate the possibility for legal abortion when a woman’s life is threatened by her pregnancy. Members of the Sandinista party were reportedly told to vote for the change, with the promise that it would be “fixed” after their candidate had won the election. And during the Pope’s 2007 visit to Brazil, then-President Lula publicly announced his opposition to abortion.

Let us be clear: the Catholic Church, and any other religious group or civil society organization, has the right to try and influence policies and further its agenda within the limits of the law. But governments owe everyone the same rights, regardless of faith, sex, family status, or ability to pay for votes or medical treatment. In the recent ruling, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights stated that governments cannot implement laws in a manner that reflects only one particular religion, as this would infringe on the rights of those who do not share that faith.

Nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to the laws that criminalize abortion, even where the pregnant woman’s health or life is compromised. Not all visions of Catholicism require a woman to die for the sake of her pregnancy. And even if they did, it is Beatriz’s faith, wishes, and life the law must uphold.

I don’t understand what El Salvador’s government has to gain from watching this young woman die a preventable death. And I don’t understand how we can continue to allow this to happen.

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

    Is this what this church demands from its people? Human sacrifice? Women dying for a non-viable fetus? Because this is just truly sick.

    • HeilMary1

      RCC officials in El Salvador and their political thugs should be arrested and prosecuted for murder when they travel abroad if Beatriz dies.

      And colluding El Salvador officials should be shamed for killing Beatriz just to win blessed brownie points from pedophile priests. Perhaps El Salvador is where on-the-lam pedophiles Rev. Jack Spaulding and Rev. Loren Riebe bought an orphanage with stolen church money to criminally indulge themselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/floridajudy Judy Occupy G’ville Gordon

    Do a Google image search for “anancephaly”, but only if you have a really strong stomach. I’m a retired maternity nurse, and these babies NEVER live more than a few weeks and most die during or shortly after birth.
    The authorities are insisting a woman die – and leave her living child motherless – in order to protect a non-viable fetus? That poor fetus isn’t the only one lacking a functioning brain. I’m very strongly pro-choice, but even if I were philosophically opposed to abortion, this is one of those cases in which it’s the only sane option.

    • HeilMary1

      But don’t you know? — pedophile priests would be more than delighted to step in and “care for” her surviving child and many Catholic orphanages have an ugly history of selling their kids out to big pharma for deadly drug experiments.

    • Cactus_Wren

      In the pro-lie (that’s not a typo) it’s called “giving the baby a chance”, and usually includes some almost certainly fictive anecdote about Some Woman Somewhere whose doctors *ordered* her to get an abortion because the fetus was deformed, but (surprise!) The Doctors Were Wrong And That Baby Is In College Now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tahni-Danielle/100001811068244 Tahni Danielle

    And to think that there are people trying to make this a reality for American women…

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

    Because they can. And anti-choicers here in the US want this same power to stand over you and wag their fingers, telling you that you should be grateful to die carrying or birthing a “gift from god.” They’re unstable and dangerous, and we can’t allow them to gain a foothold in any aspect of women’s rights.

  • Rosa1112

    Worldwide, including in countries where they are guaranteed the right to abortion, religious conservatives work diligently to deny rights to women. American politicians are legislating against American women. At least 24 states have passed anti-abortion laws. And the American people witnessed this without great reactions …
    All religions are patriarchal, misogynist and against equality for women and they really do not care about us.
    American women have to wake up and fight for the right to abortion for that this does not happen here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ingrid.heimark.5 Ingrid Heimark

    No sane person will deny a woman a life-saving abortion even in case of a healthy fetus. As in my pro-life mind, though the fetus is no less valuable than the mother, neither is it more. Having a woman be an incubator sentenced to death for a non-viable fetus is even more senseless, and not pro-life at all.

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

      I agree with you that no sane person would think that she should risk her life for this fetus. And there are apparently a lot of insane people in El Salvador whom you should be talking to, because not only do they think she should risk her life and sacrifice herself, but they also lay blame at her feet for getting pregnant in the first place. I translated the page and what I was reading was horrifying..Somehow I don’t think those people were all outliers.

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

      Incidentally, you want to see the ‘no sane person’? Take a gander at Alfonso on this thread. There’s your no sane person.

      • Ingrid Heimark

        I think that such a person can’t be called pro-life, a pro-lifer wants to save those lives at all possible to save, that includes the woman. It is senseless not to have legislation available for phycisians when a woman presents with life-threatening pregnancy, at least when we know so many different conditions may warrant an abortion just for life endangerment.

        I signed the petition and linked to it on my facebookpage.

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

          Thank you very much for doing that :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

    The Mengele of Guatemala and his wife were activists from Planned Parenthood. Moreover, even in the 90 John Cutler defended the Tuskegee syphilis experiments with mu poor blacks, who were not treated to study how the disease evolved. Cutler died in 2003 but the press still spoke well of him as a great physician promoter “maternal health in Third World countries.” The horror of the experiments of Cutler in Guatemala (and later in Tuskegee), now his name happens to the blacklist of medicine, with names like Nazi doctor Mengele.

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

      Is this your way of saying you want Beatriz to be forced to die for her fetus? Because if that’s your position, I think that you are more like Mengele.

      • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

        Jennifer I remember one case in 2003. The case of Rosita, fictitious name for a nine year old girl was raped and pregnant, buzzed pro-lifers. This limit had all the ingredients for those who oppose the abortion apareciesen public opinion as a diehard.

        The feminist organization Women’s Network Against Violence (RMV) quickly cashing policy case. After installation media, abortion request came from the fact that made international conflict.

        As Costa Rica’s government opposed the abortion was performed, the family was moved to Nicaragua where they were placed in their course then current constitution of “therapeutic abortion”. The RMV own hide handled Rosita and yours.

        In the midst of this journey, Alexis Barquero, 24, was accused in 2003 of the rape of Rosita. The young Costa Rican spent three months in jail, lost his job, had to move and was about to kill himself. Four years later, a court ruling issued his innocence.

        Around the same time, Rosita’s mother filed a complaint with police that her daughter had been raped again. Research has shown that the rapist was Francisco Freight, stepfather. The mother eventually collapsed and confessed that caused the first pregnancy was also the stepfather.

        Although Francis was back in 2003 Freight suspect in the case, RMV activists were quick to help you escape from Costa Rica. So, after learning the facts, the Nicaraguan Association Pro-Human Rights (NAHR) reported nine of them by condoning crime, criminal conspiracy, concealment of rape, and incitement to commit abortion. The Office of Nicaragua began investigating in October feminists but only after the Nicaraguan press unmask the case. However, El Nuevo Diario (END) revealed that a 14-year-old “Rosita” has a 19 month old daughter engendered a new violation. “Her attacker was always at home and his mother allegedly consented to the extent that the victim now lives hidden in a shelter, along with her daughter,” said END.

        Who do you protect?

        The newspaper pointed their guns against the Women’s Network and says that “the whereabouts of ‘Rosita’ and his daughter was inside information feminist organization. The Women’s Network says psychological testing performed on the child abuse reported in the first four years ago, ruled that it was her stepfather. ‘Now could be cheating before and we can not ensure’, responding Jamileth Mejia, spokeswoman of the body, but not a very convincing version “, maintained the newspaper.

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

          No, no no. This does not make your case, Alfonso. You’re telling me that you think that a nine year old little girl should have been forced to stay pregnant because it was ‘evidence’ against her stepfather. Not cool, not cool at all. Instead of making yourself look better, you make yourself look worse. Care to dig yourself in deeper?

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

          And what was really disgusting about Rosita that, in true keeping with the ‘values’ of your ‘church’, the archbishop excommunicated everyone involved in this child’s abortion and did nothing about the rapist.

        • Ingrid Heimark

          It is a sad fact that abortion is needed sometimes to save the mother’s life. In this case 15 doctors have signed the letter asking for the abortion to be approved. In the end we have to trust the physicians to make the right diagnosis. Abortion is neccessarry in cases of ectopic pregnancy, early onset pre-eclampsia, breast cancer etc, and we pro-lifers have to realise that. Involving possible lies in a previous case where life endangerment probably was involved also is an attempt to avoid hard cases we as pro-liers should be able to answer by saying the mother also have the right to life

        • Arekushieru

          Are you also claiming that the abuse of Rosita was not as egregious as the false rape charges that were laid against the former accused? You are sick.

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

      There should be a law named for citing Mengele like Godwin’s Law is for “because Nazis.”

    • HeilMary1

      Catholic hospitals and orphanages around the globe conduct Dr. Mengele experiments on the poor as well, often with funding from the same U.S. government organizations that funded Cutler. Where is your outrage over Catholic medical abuse of orphans in Canada, the U.S. and around the world? I attended hearings during the 1990s on such U.S. medical abuses, which included Catholic-run facilities. And the Vatican Nazi ratlines of WWII specifically smuggled THE Dr. Mengele to Latin America where he continued his mayhem under assumed names. Many orphans in Canada also claim he used the name “Father Joseph” to oversee their medical abuse there. Now get over yourself, you Opus Die Franco fascist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

    But the real question is not the alleged misogyny of life movement (curious accusation by justifying abortion Asian girls), but justifies the legalization of abortion propaganda lies. Sometimes it seems that some abortion organizations in Latin America are more concerned about finding “martyrs” for their cause, the reality of the facts. Sometimes lying is a resource to promote “safe abortion” from such extreme cases as false. The Institute of Legal Medicine is not an anti-abortion lobby. Spanish media related to abortion lobby have not informed his readers that the Institute of Legal Medicine of El Salvador advised against abortion after examining the girl. On May 10, the institute’s director, Jose Miguel Fortin, complained: “It has been sold to the public something that is not true.” The head doctor noted that, at the request of the Supreme Court of the country, examining the case, the girl was examined by “a multidisciplinary team without political bias or religious” which found that “there is no medical reason to suspend the pregnancy. ”

    The examination was conducted by physicians, gynecologists, psychologists and psychiatrists collaboration IML Salvadoran Medical College. In addition to examining the young, reviewed medical records at the centers that have tried. The opinion was “unanimously” against perform an abortion to the young, said the institute’s director. In fact, among those who signed the unanimous opinion contained a professional maternity which was treated the young woman, who had initially signed in favor of abortion. Also, the Institute of Legal Medicine notes that suffering is inactive lupus and that “no clinical evidence of renal failure” threatening the life of the patient.
    But that does not disprove the racist and eugenic origins of the pro-abortion lobby: What have to do the abortion of Spanish employers ACAI with Dr. John Cutler inoculated nearly 700 Guatemalans syphilis to investigate them without their consent in the 40s?

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

      Wrong, wrong and wrong. You talk about us wanting to find Martyrs, but it’s you and the pro-life movement who want Beatriz to be forced to die for a fetus that will never be alive. And there is no such thing as ‘inactive’ Lupus because it can become active at any time. The so-called Institute of Legal Medicine has a religious bias and is flat-out lying, just like you are Alfonso. Because like you and your ‘church’, they also want Beatriz to be DEAD.

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

      Alfonso, why don’t you just stop copying and pasting BS, and tell us in your own words why you want Beatriz to die.. Just why? Tell us.

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

      Just another wall o’text.

      tl;dr – You’re so against abortion that Beatriz deserves to die. Got it.

    • HeilMary1

      How about the unpunished racist slaughter of millions of indigenous “heretics” by your missionaries throughout Canada, the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and around the globe? Many Catholic medical missionaries have also exploited the poor and non-white for deadly medical experiments. I’m a victim of similar Catholic medical abuse.

    • Arekushieru

      There is no ‘pro-abortion lobby’. But there is an anti-choice one. Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist and racist, but she let NEITHER of them affect her business.

      Dr. John Cutler is very different from ACAI. Wanna know why? Because they did not do things against someone’s consent! Because John Cutler was not affected by the people he inoculated. Women ARE affected by pregnancies. And this organization ACAI lets women CHOOSE, it does not force women to have abortions, hence the term Pro-CHOICE not Pro-ABORTION. Derp. THAT would have been like John Cutler. THAT is pretty much like YOUR ilk. Because they would force women to maintain pregnancies without their consent, even though they themselves aren’t affected by pregnant women, in any way. SO sorry, your point about John Cutler makes OUR point NOT yours.

      How many times do we have to tell you before you get it through your thick skull? China is just as anti-choice as YOUR ILK is. And forced abortion (of female fetuses) occurs just as much as a result of misogyny as forced birth does.

      Abortion IS MUCH SAFER than childbirth.

      YOUR cause lies way more often than any other single organization I have ever encountered in my entire life.

  • bcgrrl125

    How about groups supporting Beatriz simply raise the money for her to leave and have the abortion elsewhere?

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

      Assuming that she’d even be allowed to leave the country and that she wouldn’t face prosecution once she returned home. They’d probably find a way to block her visa.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

    Jennifer, a team of doctors Salvadorans, by order of the Supreme Court, has examined Beatrice. Has concluded that there is no risk to your life and your health. I had previous similar cases but all without exception were revealed as scams propaganda. The pro-choice activist Marta Maria Blandon also recognized him 10 years ago in an interview published by the Women’s Health Journal,

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

      The Institute of Legal Medicine is a biased organization; doctors willing to lie and sacrifice this woman because they’re afraid of the power that your church wields in the country.

      • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

        Are you saying that the gynecologist who attended Beatrice and personally lobbying for his abortion, also lying when he now recognizes that there is danger to life and health of Beatriz?

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

          I’m saying that this country is run by this so-called church, and I doubt everything they say. But Alfonso, what part of this fetus having no brain do you fail to understand. It is non-viable. It will never be alive. Lupus is unpredictable. If there’s any risk, why should she have to go through an entire pregnancy for a thing with no brain?

          • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

            El Salvador : “Sea patriota, mate a un cura”; Salvadoran Slogan eighties: “Be patriot, kill a priest”.

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

            That is not an answer. That is nonsense. Please try answering the question. If you want to know what the question is, I’ll give you a hint; it’s the last sentence. Just answer.

          • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

            To be clear, I think it is a crime to sacrifice the life of the mother to save the fetus. Those who are inclined to sacrifice the life of the fetus in order to protect the mother’s life based on the assumption that the mother’s life is worth more than that of the child, which is arbitrary and false. But this is not the case of Beatriz. All human beings have the same dignity and the same value.

          • Arekushieru

            No, if you want to sacrifice the life of the fetus in order to protect the woman you are saying that the fetus is NOT worth more than the woman. Pregnancy only affects ONE person, the one who is pregnant. It most certainly does NOT affect you. That you would say that a fetus has the same value and dignity as a woman is SICK. After all, If you think a woman and fetus are exactly the same, you think very little of women.

          • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

            From the perspective of the prolife medical practice, the exceptional cases in which the life of the mother is at risk are regarded as a medical ethics problem to be solved by applying the principle of double effect and the concept of indirect abortion.

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

            To be prolife, I would think you would want to save life. And as in the case of Savita (whom you mentioned earlier)–there’s only one life that you can actually save, and that’s the life of the mother. It is impossible to save the fetus. One life, and if you fail to do even that, how can you call yourself ‘pro-life’?

          • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

            In case of a unviable baby that threatened the life of the mother I am in favor of an induced birth, in my opinion this is a case of indirect abortion but justified by double effect “epikeia”.

          • HeilMary1

            And yet Sister McBride was excommunicated for following your rules!

          • Arekushieru

            So, a woman has to undergo major complications to her life and health just to prevent major complications to her life and health? Yeah, great ‘double effect’, there. Blech.

            Also, indirect abortion and direct abortion are exactly the same. Both terminate unwanted pregnancies. That is ALL either of them do or are MEANT to do.

            But, in YOUR scenario, a woman’s body is violated twice. SO sick.

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

            But I do have to thank you for giving a straight answer rather than copying and pasting random nonsense. So thank you for that.

          • HeilMary1

            But your lying genocidal cult keeps changing its goal posts and rules on people who obey, like Sister McBride who was excommunicated for following those rules when she agreed to an early delivery of a toxic placenta to prevent the death of a Phoenix mother. If that mother’s fetus had been older, it could have been saved by the early deliver also. But McBride’s Bishop Olmsted wanted the mother to be forced to die along with her too-young-to-be-saved fetus.

          • HeilMary1

            Given that priests rape children, exploit their mothers as disposable livestock, and support treason and genocide against their “heretic communist” neighbors and host countries, priests certainly are threats to all families, the welfare of their host countries and international peace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

    The propaganda is not synonymous of truth: Rosita, Carmen Clímaco and Jack Hitt, Savita et cetera.

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

      No, your propaganda is not synonymous with truth. And it never has been. You care more about your church than women’s lives. Even though this fetus is not and will never be viable. Even though this woman has a living child who needs a live mother, not a dead saint. And yet you have the nerve to call yourself moral.

      • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

        Jennifer, I want to ask: Can you read in Spanish? I’m afraid your misinformation about abortion in hispanic countries is because you can not read the Spanish press and your unique sources of information are few reliable reports as IPAS groups.

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

          You’re not answering my question. It’s very simple. Why should this woman go through this pregnancy, if there’s even the slightest risk, for a baby that will never and can never live? Just answer.

          • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.taboadaportal Alfonso Taboada Portal

            To be clear, I think it is a crime to sacrifice the life of the mother to save the fetus. Those who are inclined to sacrifice the life of the fetus in order to protect the mother’s life based on the assumption that the mother’s life is worth more than that of the child, which is arbitrary and false. But this is not the case of Beatriz. All human beings have the same dignity and the same value.

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

            Only this fetus is non-viable. There is no cure or treatment for anencephaly.

          • HeilMary1

            You just contradicted yourself by declaring brainless non-viable fetuses as more worthy of life than their sentient, viable mothers.

          • Ingrid Heimark

            So you approve of termination in this particular case?

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

          The only thing I know in Spanish is how to count. I know French and a touch of Italian and German. That’s it. See how I did that? Answered a simple question in my own words? Can you do the same with mine?

    • Arekushieru

      Oh, seriously, now you want to claim that SAVITA’S case was not synonymous with the truth? YOU are not Irish, nor were you an examining doctor in either Rosita’s or Savita’s case.