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.

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

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.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.