Women’s rights groups are demanding that doctors in El Salvador immediately perform an abortion to save the life of Beatriz, a 22-year old woman and mother of an infant.
A 22-year-old Salvadoran woman with severe chronic medical conditions is pregnant with a fetus without a brain. But a 1998 law in El Salvador prohibits all abortions, without exception.
Here in Central America, women are denied life-saving treatment every day. Women with life-threatening illnesses are denied treatment because to do so might harm their pregnancy—just the same explanation that Savita’s husband received from their doctors in Galway. [This article is published in both English and Spanish.]
El Salvador today is not a good place to be a woman. In 1998, the government passed a new Penal Code creating a complete ban on abortion. No exceptions. And now with the pregnancy police combing hospitals, even women with miscarriages are going to jail.
For all of President Barack Obama’s pledges that he stands for universal human rights, the fundamental rights of women are likely to be left off the table when he visits leaders in Latin America this week.
In an opinion piece published last Sunday, Byron Calame (the New York Times' reader representative) wrote about a key component in a New York Times Magazine article on abortion in El Salvador: "Accuracy and fairness were not pursued with the vigor Times readers have a right to expect." The original article, written by Jack Hitt, had several interviews with women who had abortions in El Salvador – where the medical procedure is illegal and anyone who participates in one can get sentenced with up to 30 years jail time.
The controversy is over one of the women, Carmen Climaco, who is currently serving time in prison; the debate is whether she was punished for ending her pregnancy (as Hitt reported) or for killing her full-term baby after it was born (as court documents suggest). Calame contends that Hitt and his editors did not fact check thoroughly, and then denied their mistake when questioned about Climaco.