Let her die

The highest court in El Salvador has ruled on the Beatriz case:

Her fetus, which has anencephaly, a severe birth defect in which parts of the brain and skull are missing, has almost no chance of surviving after birth, leading her doctors to urge an abortion to protect Beatriz’s health before it deteriorates further.

But in a 4-to-1 ruling, the court cited the country’s legal “absolute impediment to authorize the practice of abortion,” and ruled that “the rights of the mother cannot be privileged over those” of the fetus.

The court recognized that Beatriz has lupus, but it said that her disease was currently under control and that the threat to her life “is not actual or imminent, but rather eventual.”

It ordered that her health continue to be closely monitored, saying that if complications arose that put her right to life in imminent danger doctors “could proceed with interventions.”

Translated, the court has said that she can’t have an abortion now because her health isn’t in imminent danger, but she might be able to later if her health worsens. Of course at that point she will be more likely to die, but if she does die that’s the way it goes–a fetus that is most likely going to die is more important than this mother’s health (she already has one baby). This is what ‘pro-life’ supporters in the US want (Republicans, like Paul Ryan, also believe life begins at conception which would mean no exceptions if abortion is banned). And El Salvador shows that the Catholic Church and other pro-life people are ok with punishing women:

In 1998, the government passed a new Penal Code banning all abortions without exceptions. This was a shift from an earlier law which allowed abortions in cases of threats to the health or life of the woman, as well as in cases of rape, incest, or severe foetal abnormality. The abortion laws were further solidified in 1999 with a constitutional amendment defining a human being from the moment of conception. While the number of illegal abortions performed every year is unknown, attempts to self-abort are the second highest cause of maternal mortality in the country. In addition to the risk of death as a result of unsafe abortion procedures, El Salvador’s absolute ban on abortion has led to the arbitrary imprisonment of women suffering from miscarriages and complications in their pregnancies. Women are currently in prison for having abortions, some serving sentences of up to 30 years. Under current Salvadoran law, anyone who performs an abortion with the woman’s consent, or a woman who self-induces or consents to someone else inducing her abortion, can be imprisoned for up to eight years. Healthcare professionals are obliged to maintain patient confidentiality, but also to report any crimes to the police, including that of abortion. A note from the Attorney General’s Office is displayed in the maternity department of public hospitals, reminding staff of this and putting them under pressure to make reports. However, many women who miscarry or experience emergency obstetric complications, if the foetus is deemed to have been viable, are charged with aggravated homicide, for which they can be imprisoned for up to 50 years, and consequently spend decades behind bars. In June 2012, the Citizens for the Decriminalisation of Abortion (CFDA) pointed out that 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 that the majority of women who have been charged are extremely vulnerable for being poor, young and with low levels of education. These women, who are more likely to suffer from obstetric complications, are regularly reported to the police following a miscarriage, stillbirth or premature labour. Significantly, not one such report has been made to the police by a private clinic or hospital.

Doctors can get up to 8 years in jail. Take special note of that last bit–this law doesn’t affect the rich.

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