El Salvador: Authorities must allow termination to save young woman's life

The Salvadoran authorities must urgently comply with a ruling from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights this week by providing a seriously ill young woman with a life-saving termination.

Beatriz, 22, has a one-year-old son and is four-and-a-half months pregnant. Doctors say she could die if the pregnancy continues as she has lupus and kidney disease. Doctors have also confirmed that the foetus is missing a large part of its brain and skull, which means the baby is expected to die before it is born or within a few days of birth.

However, doctors have not terminated the pregnancy as they fear that they could be prosecuted under the strict laws which criminalise abortion in the country.

Esther Major, Amnesty International's researcher on Central America, said:

"Beatriz's life is hanging in the balance because of unjustifiable delays on behalf of the authorities."

"The Salvadoran authorities must comply with the Inter-American Commission's recommendations and allow Beatriz to live and to care for her one-year-old son. Beatriz's life is in their hands."

Background

On 22 March, the health professionals treating Beatriz requested permission from the Salvadoran authorities to carry out the abortion necessary to safeguard her health and life. They also asked for a guarantee that the doctors treating her would not be prosecuted under the country's strict laws, which prohibit abortion in all circumstances.

When the authorities failed to respond, Beatriz's lawyers took the request to the country's Supreme Court. The Court has still not issued a decision, despite the urgency of the case and the fact that she is currently suffering cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

El Salvador's Penal Code says that any person who requests or carries out an abortion could receive a long prison sentence. This means that both the doctors and Beatriz herself could risk imprisonment if the pregnancy is terminated without permission from the authorities.

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