Beatriz, a 22-year-old pregnant woman in El Salvador with serious health issues, has finally had an abortion that will hopefully save her life.
The mother of a 14-month-old was 26 weeks pregnant with a fetus missing parts of its brain and skull; doctors had warned that Beatriz, who has kidney issues and lupus, could be killed by carrying the pregnancy to term despite the fact fetus was not expected to live more than a few hours after birth. Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court of El Salvador refused her appeal to terminate the pregnancy citing its strict ban on all abortions. While Beatriz’s death was possible, the court said, it was not “imminent.” After international outcry, on Thursday the Health Minister of El Salvador finally approved an end to her pregnancy by C-section, which is also called a hysterotomy.
Beatriz had the potentially life-saving procedure yesterday. As expected, her 27-week-old female fetus died.
While I’m relieved that Beatriz is no longer carrying a fetus which could kill her, it’s hugely dispiriting how long she suffered. As explained by Jodi Jacobson, the editor-in-chief of the blog RH Reality Check, Beatriz’s hysteromy procedure was actually far more risky than any other abortion she could have had earlier in her pregnancy. In fact, Jacobson writes, she sought an abortion after only 10 weeks of pregnancy and first trimester abortions are the safest type available.
But all abortions are illegal in El Salvador and therefore Beatriz was forced to the hopeless pregnancy for 27 long weeks (beginning of the third trimestser) before she was allowed to terminate it. Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church and politicians in El Salvador have been trying to spin the hysterotomy procedure as a C-section “birth,” as opposed to a pregnancy-ending “abortion,” in an attempt to save face.
All of this — the damage done to Beatriz’s body, her medical bills, the perception the Church is willing to let a 22-year-old woman needlessly die — all could have been prevented had she been allowed to make medical decisions for her own body.
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[Image of woman on a hospital bed via Shutterstock]