The participants of the last march for International Women’s Day in San Salvador raised this year a flag that is becoming a symbol of the fight for the freedom to abort. This is the case “Beatriz against the State of El Salvador”, which the judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court) agreed to deal with as of this Wednesday, March 22. The decision could set a precedent on the total prohibition of the interruption of pregnancy in the Central American country.
By Vladimir Chamorro, from San Salvador
Beatriz was a young Salvadoran woman with lupus, who in 2013 was denied legal protection by the State to terminate her pregnancy, despite the fact that a medical committee concluded that the extrauterine life of the fetus that was gestating in her womb was impossible. Alejandra Burgos, member of the Human Rights Defenders Network, demands that the Salvadoran state be condemned. “What we hope is that the Inter-American Court condemns the Salvadoran state, says the activist. That this serves to generate measures of non-repetition, which implies not only reparation for Beatriz’s family, but also to decriminalize abortion in El Salvador and In the americas.”
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While several Latin American countries are taking important steps in favor of the right to legal abortion, El Salvador continues to be the caboose. It is one of the few nations in the world that still totally bans it. Sara Garcia, of the Citizen group for the decriminalization of abortion, ensures that in a country where abortion is classified as aggravated homicide, with sentences of up to 50 years, women have no alternative but “jail or death.” “The Salvadoran state systematically fails women when it continues to penalize abortion, when it does not listen to the social movement, when we see that there is a lack of sexual education. But there are also criminalized women. The alternative we have is jail, for what for us, beatrice means the woman who dared to denounce and now we agree to her fight for justice”.
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This citizen group registers at least 180 women imprisoned for abortion due to obstetric emergencies in the last 2 decades. Although the struggle of feminist organizations has achieved the release of dozens of them, they assure that the management of President Nayib Bukele and the current Congress, with an official majority, represent a significant setback in terms of sexual and reproductive rights. They attribute it to some decisions such as the one to file in 2021 a proposal to reform the criminal law, called Beatrice reform, which sought to decriminalize abortion on 3 grounds: when the woman is in danger of her life, when the fetus suffers malformations that make life outside the womb unfeasible, and, finally, due to rape. The women’s organizations hope that a resolution of the Inter-American Court in favor of Beatriz will allow the debate on the decriminalization of abortion in the country to resume.
The State did not allow her to perform the abortion
Originally from the town of La Noria Tierra Blanca, about 100 km southeast of San Salvador, Beatriz was 20 years old when her second pregnancy was confirmed in February 2013, already diagnosed with lupus and after a risky first birth. A month later, she was diagnosed with a congenital malformation in the fetus incompatible with life, with a “probability that she would die” if the pregnancy continued.
She was forced to continue with the pregnancy for 81 days, knowing that the fetus was not viable, until she underwent a cesarean section. The baby died five hours later. They also consider that her rights to her private and family life were violated by remaining hospitalized for almost all of the 81 days.
The State did not allow her to perform the abortion from the beginning. He appealed to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of El Salvador and it determined that “there is no room” for the interruption of the pregnancy. Beatriz’s death as a result of an accident has not stopped her family from seeking justice for her case.