Yesterday El Salvador’s Supreme Court ruled against allowing a 22-year-old mother to have an abortion that would save her life and terminate the pregnancy of the fetus she has growing inside her. Doctors have determined the fetus has anencephaly, a birth defect in which parts of the brain and skull are missing. Beatriz, as she is known as, also suffers from lupus, and complications from her pregnancy which is now at 26 weeks will continue until she gives birth to the infant that will die after it is born. Due to carrying her pregnancy to term, Beatriz will probably also die. And there is nothing we can do about it. From The New York Times:
In the ruling, the court cited doctors as saying that “an eventual interruption of the pregnancy would not imply, much less have as an objective, the destruction of the fetus.”
Beatriz’s lawyer, however, described the ruling as “misogynistic” because it placed the rights of a fetus with little chance of surviving after birth over the welfare of a sick woman who already has an infant boy to care for.
“The court placed the life of the anencephalic baby over Beatriz’s life,” said Víctor Hugo Mata, one of her lawyers, speaking by phone from the Supreme Court. “Justice here does not respect the rights of women.”
Last month, a group of doctors overseeing Beatriz’s care at the National Maternity Hospital sent a report to the Health Ministry arguing that as the pregnancy progressed, the risk of hemorrhaging, kidney failure and maternal death would increase.
Beatriz is a mother of one. Not only will she probably die, her infant will only live a few hours, and she will be leaving a child motherless. El Salvador has some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in Latin America, and doesn’t even allow abortion in cases or rape or incest. If doctors were to intervene and perform the abortion that would save Beatriz’s life, they would face criminal charges. Women who undergo abortions in El Salvador face up to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide. Beatriz could possibly obtain a special humanitarian visa and travel to the United States to have an abortion, but her doctors say the trip would pose too many health risks. Every day that she remains pregnant is putting her life in jeopardy. Her infant has no chance of survival beyond a few hours, and this pregnancy will kill her. There is a petition asking Pope Francis to intervene on Change.org, and I signed it knowing that it won’t do a bit of good anyway.
This decision doesn’t protect the sanctity of life. If abortion is murder, then what is forcing a woman to go to term with a baby that will die anyway and a pregnancy that will kill her in any way pro-life?