El Salvador must offer pregnant woman life-saving termination

The authorities in El Salvador must act immediately to allow doctors to carry out a life-saving pregnancy termination that will save the life of a seriously ill young woman, Amnesty International said today.

Doctors say the woman, four-and-a-half months pregnant and known simply as Beatriz to protect her identity, could die if she continues with the pregnancy.

However, doctors have not yet treated her because they fear they could be prosecuted under the country’s total ban on abortion.

To make matters worse, the foetus has a large part of its brain and skull missing and is likely to die before it’s born or within hours of birth.

Beatriz has been diagnosed with a number of severe illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease. She has a one-year-old son who, unless the authorities act, is at serious risk of being left to grow up without his mother.

It is now more than a month since the hospital requested permission to provide her with the treatment she needs, but the authorities have still not agreed to it being carried out.

The country’s Penal Code states that anyone seeking or carrying out an abortion could be given a long prison sentence. This means both doctors and Beatriz would be at risk of imprisonment if a termination is carried out.

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

Beatriz’s situation is desperate and she must not wait any longer. Her very chances of survival depend on a decision from the authorities.
“The delay is nothing short of cruel and inhuman. The government has a duty to ensure Beatriz can access the life-saving treatment she needs.”
 
Beatriz, who already has a one year old son, was ill before she became pregnant, but her illnesses were under control. They got worse after she became pregnant, which means she now needs vital medical help.
 
She has taken her plight to the country’s Supreme Court, which is currently considering her request for medical treatment.
 
Esther Major added:
 
“We hope that the Supreme Court treats this case with the urgency it merits, given that Beatriz’s life and health are at risk. She is suffering cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in being denied the medical intervention she so urgently needs.”
The case has parallels with the case of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar in Ireland who died last October after being denied a termination that could have saved her life. The Irish government is now considering new legislation to amend abortion laws.

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