El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance

"It's a tragedy. She is desperate as she nears her 25th week of pregnancy," said lawyer Angelica Rivas

By Katie McDonough
May 23, 2013 12:54AM (UTC)
main article image
Reproductive rights advocates protest El Salvador's absolute ban on abortion (Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto)

After more than a month of delays, El Salvador's Supreme Court has announced that it will decide whether or not a critically ill woman may receive a lifesaving abortion within the next two weeks. The 22-year-old woman, identified only as Beatriz, pleaded with the justices to spare her life last week, telling the court: "This baby inside me cannot survive. I am ill. I want to live."

"It's a tragedy. She is desperate as she nears her 25th week of pregnancy," Beatriz's lawyer Angelica Rivas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Wednesday. "She trusts her doctors who say she needs to have an abortion."


Beatriz's doctors are not the only ones who have advocated for the lifesaving procedure. As Salon has previously reported, the young woman, who has been hospitalized for weeks due to life-threatening complications related to her lupus, hypertension and kidney function and whose anencephalic fetus has been pronounced nonviable by her doctors, has the support of El Salvador's Ministry of Health and President Mauricio Funes. In a statement last week, Funes said that Beatriz, who is already a mother to a young son, should be able to decide her own fate.

Reproductive rights advocates in El Salvador have been joined by the international community to apply pressure to the court, including the United Nations and other human rights groups, as Thomson Reuters reports:

Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs, including the expert on torture and violence against women, have called on state authorities to protect her right to life and have said the uncertainty Beatriz faces over the risk to her life is “cruel and inhumane”.

Last month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted protection measures to Beatriz, asking the government of El Salvador to allow doctors to go ahead with the abortion.

"It could be up to another three weeks before the Supreme Court makes a decision on whether or not Beatriz lives or dies, or is potentially left with severe health problems -- which is cruel in the extreme," Amnesty International's Central America researcher Esther Major, who is involved in the case, told Thomson Reuters.


"We're talking about a non-viable pregnancy and the right to life. The courts have let her down. They are toying with her life," she said.

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

MORE FROM Katie McDonoughFOLLOW kmcdonovgh