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Death or imprisonment? El Salvador's strict antiabortion law

More than 600 women have been imprisoned since El Salvador's 1998 abortion legislation was enacted. The case of a mother with severe health complications has brought the debate to the fore.

By Tim MuthGuest blogger / May 2, 2013



• A version of this post ran on the author's blog. The views expressed are the author's own.

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El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world. El Salvador outlaws abortion for any reason. There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. Moreover, El Salvador arrests and imprisons women who have abortions, sometime charging them with murder and sending them to prison for thirty years.

A 2012 report from the Central American Women's Network details the status of maternal and reproductive health in El Salvador.

El Salvador’s stringent anti-abortion legislation has imprisoned 628 women since a law was enacted in 1998. Twenty-four of these women were indicted for “aggravated murder,” after an abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth. Morena Herrera, president of CFDA maintains the majority of women who have been charged are extremely vulnerable for being poor, young and with low levels of education.

The human consequences of that law are in abundantly clear today in a single case. The Huffington Post has this article on a case highlighted by Amnesty International:

A critically ill young woman in El Salvador may have to decide between jail and a life-saving abortion, according to a new report from Amnesty International.  The 22-year-old woman, identified only as Beatriz, is four-and-a-half months pregnant but could die if she doesn't get an abortion, per the report.  Beatriz has been diagnosed with several illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease, Amnesty wrote, and her baby is missing a large part of its brain and skull and would likely die within hours or days of birth...

Salon reports that Beatriz's hospital petitioned El Salvador's Supreme Court a month ago but is still awaiting a ruling on the matter.

“Beatriz’s situation is desperate and must not wait any longer. Her very chances of survival depend on a decision from the authorities,” Esther Major, Amnesty International’s researcher on Central America, said in a statement. “The delay is nothing short of cruel and inhuman."

Amnesty International has organized an urgent campaign to get messages of support for Beatriz to Salvadoran authorities.

 Tim Muth covers the news and politics of El Salvador on his blog.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Latin America bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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