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El Salvador: Supreme Court toys with young mother's life

Amnesty International slammed a decision by El Salvador’s Supreme Court to once again put off a ruling on whether or not to allow a severely ill pregnant woman to have an abortion.

The decision which Amnesty described as showing “no humanity” sparked a protest by the human rights organisation outside the Salvadorian embassy in London earlier today.

Beatriz, a 22-year-old woman, is four-and-a-half months pregnant and has been diagnosed with a number of severe illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease.

The foetus she is carrying is not expected to survive as it is missing a large part of its brain and skull.

Beatriz is currently in hospital, but has been denied life-saving treatment because it would require terminating her pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador in all circumstances, even when the woman’s life is at risk.

The Supreme Court had the chance to resolve this issue with a definitive ruling – the delay puts Beatriz’s life in even greater danger than was already the case.

Esther Major, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International, said:

“Yesterday, judges with the power to immediately save the life of a young mother who desperately wants to live chose not to do so. We are outraged at their abdication of their role to protect and defend Beatriz’s life and health. There is no justice in this delay, and definitely no humanity.

“To give themselves up to three weeks to decide on whether or not Beatriz lives or dies, or is potentially left with severe health problems is cruel in the extreme.

“We urge the judges to immediately uphold Beatriz’s rights and treat this case with the urgency it merits.

“The Salvadoran government must act now to save Beatriz and fulfil its role as guarantor of human rights in the country. The world is watching and urging the authorities to intervene now to guarantee her right to life.”

The United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, four United Nations special experts, including the expert on torture and violence against women, have demanded that the state provide Beatriz the treatment she wants and needs to survive.
It is now more than two months since the hospital treating her requested permission from the government to provide Beatriz with the treatment she needs, but the authorities have still not taken action.

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.

Beatriz already has a one-year-old son who needs her mother. She was ill before she became pregnant, but her illnesses were under control.

Tens of thousands of people from around the world have urged authorities in El Salvador to provide Beatriz with the medical treatment she badly needs.

More than 70,000 Amnesty International activists have signed petitions and many more are currently taking action.

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