On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of El Salavador refused an appeal by a 22-year-old woman with serious health issues to have a lifesaving abortion. Beatriz is 26 weeks pregnant with a fetus missing parts of its brain and skull; it is not expected to live for more than a few hours after birth. Her doctors said Beatriz needed to terminate her pregnancy, however, because of complications with her ailing kidneys and lupus. The court ruled this week that since Beatriz’s death was not “imminent,” it would not allow doctors to give her an abortion.
But yesterday, following an international outcry, the Health Minister of El Salvador approved a Cesarean section for Beatriz, which will effectively terminate the pregnancy, “in the event of an emergency.”
However, news reports are careful not to call it an “abortion.” I suppose it isn’t an abortion, exactly; the C-section will result in the fetus’ death, because it is too ill to live outside the womb. Additionally, it seems as if the parties involved are still waiting for some sort of scary medical emergency to happen first: the Health Minister was quoted as saying doctors are ”ready to act immediately at the slightest sign of danger.”
She also added, “For me, what matters is to protect Beatriz’s life.” Beatriz has a 14-month-old son as well as a husband.
El Salvador has a strict ban on all abortions, including to preserve the health or save the life of the mother. Beatriz has been requesting an abortion for months, but the government dragged its feet — thus making the abortion more complicated. (The earlier in a pregnancy, the more simple the abortion procedure.)
While I’m relieved that El Salvador is not effectively sentencing a 22-year-old woman to death like Savita Halappanavar, the woman who died earlier this year in Ireland when she was refused a lifesaving abortion, it is still morally and ethically wrong that she was unable to make a medical decision about her own health and life. It is shameful that there are places in this world that would allow a woman to die rather than let her make decisions for her own body.
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[Photo of woman in hospital bed via Shutterstock]