Louisiana to become El Salvador, i.e., hell.

[CONTENT WARNING: child rape, teen suicide, fanatical hostility to bodily autonomy and consent, extreme misogyny, and probably some other shit I could be too triggered to recall.]

Photo of a Salvadoran woman crying in court, flanked by two law enforcement personnel.In In this December 2017 photo, Salvadoran Teodora Vasquez, found guilty of what the court said was an illegal abortion via a miscarriage, arrives in a courtroom to appeal her 30-year prison sentence.
(AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

Perhaps you have heard about Louisiana’s latest bill classifying all abortions as homicides? Anyone found to help facilitate an abortion, from the person(s) performing it to the involuntary organ donor who wants or needs it will be charged with homicide, with the potential penalty of life in prison. There is no exception for rape, incest, or when fetuses are incompatible with life (e.g. anencephaly).

The bill, HB813, passed out of committee on a 7-2 vote; it now faces the full legislature, and if passed, will land on the desk of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. But before you entertain visions of victorious vetoes dancing around in your head, you should know that Governor Edwards has been a hardcore advocate for involuntary organ donation (by other people) as a governor, and previously as a state lawmaker. He has already signed into law one of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the country, outlawing the procedure upon the detection of a heartbeat, which is about six weeks gestation and before many people know they are pregnant.

Naturally, opponents of inhumane barbarity and violent misogyny are concerned about the law’s potential impacts on everything from in vitro fertilization (IVF) to contraception, especially emergency contraception and IUDs. While there is precious little clarity around many related issues, we do know that pressing murder charges against people who have miscarriages or find themselves in need of ending nonviable and deadly (if untreated) ectopic pregnancies will be left up to the prosecutor’s discretion. Presumably, this will require full investigations and interrogations, although how they’ll get around federal HIPAA laws in open court is an open question.

So, you know, that’s good, right? Only an estimated 26% of pregnancies end in miscarriages, and only 2% are ectopic. So the majority of pregnant people in Louisiana will (probably) be just fine, as long as they don’t go do anything silly like try to abort a fetus that is incompatible with life – either the fetus’s or one’s own.

But it seems to me that all of this uncertainty is causing a lot of confusion and distress, when it is entirely unnecessary. For answers, we need look no further than El Salvador, where all abortions are banned with no exception for rape, incest, or threat of harm to the involuntary organ donor or the fetus.

How it works

A case reported yesterday provides a typical example: on Monday, a Salvadoran judge sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison after she suffered a miscarriage and made her way to a public hospital seeking urgent medical attention. Instead, the staff reported her to authorities. From that point on, the housewife and mother of a 7-year old daughter has been held in pre-trial detention, until her sentencing on Monday.

Easy-peasy! There’s no reason the system cannot work the same way here.

Now, I may have oversimplified the situation in El Salvador a bit. I admit I’m no expert, and there are nuances and complex factors I won’t pretend to understand. So let’s hear instead from Lisa Kowalchuk, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Guelph, who has actually researched and studied healthcare policy in El Salvador.

To understand what is at stake, we need to look at what makes El Salvador probably the worst country on earth [but not for long! -Ed.] to have an unwanted or life-threatening pregnancy, or a complicated miscarriage, especially if you are poor.

The preventable evils of the world fall disproportionately on the poor instead of the rich. It really should be the other way around: what’s good for the goose is good for…whatever a gander is. Or something like that.

The problem is not just the abortion ban itself, which El Salvador shares in common with five other Latin American and Caribbean nations.

What has made El Salvador unique on the international stage is the fanatical over-application of the law by police, prosecutors and judges.

Well, at least we don’t have any fanatics like that to worry about in our legal systems!

Among the small number of countries that maintain a complete ban, only in El Salvador has law enforcement led to women being sent to prison for 30 to 40 years. To date more than 150 women and girls have been prosecuted. More than 28 women are currently serving out cruelly long sentences.

To put these numbers in some context, the population of El Salvador (2021) is 6.52 million. The population of Louisiana (2020) is about 4.6 million, so even if the state were unfortunate and had the same crazed fanatic problem El Salvador does, those numbers could be expected to be somewhat lower. If, however, the Louisiana law catches on at the national level, it’s worth noting that New York City alone has over 8.5 million residents, with the metropolitan area surrounding it accounting for another 10 million or so. According to my Ladymath™, those numbers would grow substantially larger.

The country’s penal code mandates a 12-year sentence for women convicted of having an abortion. But if a miscarried or stillborn fetus is deemed viable by the courts, women are prosecuted for aggravated homicide.

In one case, a 40-year prison term was handed to a woman who miscarried at 18 weeks.

Many women jailed for miscarriages did not even know they were pregnant.

Women have been criminalized for obstetric emergencies because judges accept contradictory or non-existent evidence that they intended to either end the pregnancy or kill an early-term fetus.

Governments in El Salvador and Louisiana apparently do not understand that one cannot prove a negative. If a pregnancy fails to result in a live birth for any reason, it falls to the accused to prove it was not caused by “aggravated homicide.” WHAT THE FUCK. (Teh logicks, yer doooin’ it rong.)

But as I said, thankfully this will only be a problem in 26-28% of pregnancies.

In addition to this clear violation of women’s civil rights, the extremist application of the law imposes harms to health and life.

For example, Salvadoran doctors have refused to intervene medically when a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life, as in the case of ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized egg becomes lodged in the fallopian tube, leading to rupture and lethal internal bleeding if untreated. In such cases doctors have stood by until the tube ruptures.

[I am just going to reiterate here my original CONTENT WARNING… no joke, people.]

There are particular harms for very young girls and teens. Girls as young as nine years old have been denied therapeutic abortion.

For these children, the trauma of sexual violence is compounded by the physical risks that childbirth poses to an immature body and the terror of going through with a dangerous pregnancy.

Three out of every eight maternal deaths in El Salvador are pregnant teens who take their own lives.

It is also known that 13 per cent of maternal deaths in less developed countries are caused by unsafe abortions, which in turn become more frequent when abortion is illegal or unavailable.

Hundreds of clandestine abortions certainly continue to occur each year in El Salvador despite the ban. Health Ministry officials themselves acknowledge that the law and its application undermine their efforts to reduce the maternal mortality rate.

To say nothing of the maternal morbidity rate from unsafe abortions, up to and including infertility, ironically enough.

What makes this situation all the more poignant is that it only affects the poor and poorly educated.

These women and girls can’t afford care in private hospitals and clinics where doctors maintain patient confidentiality. Nor can they afford good legal counsel.

Fortunately, we are told we live in a “wealthy country,” so no one here needs to worry about unequal access to quality health care or legal representation!

Regarding the Louisiana bill, the Forced Birth Brigades describe themselves as “overwhelmed with joy” about the prospect.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that Louisiana is a death penalty state. What could possibly go wrong?


  1. moarscienceplz says

    A good friend of mine had an ectopic pregnancy as her first pregnancy. She then went on to give birth to to two girls, who are terrific people. So, if she had been jailed for the ‘crime’ of aborting that non-viable clump of cells, two wonderful human people might never have been born.

  2. tuatara says

    The pain and suffering inflicted upon Teodora Vasquez is simply heart-breaking, firstly by a complicated and potentially life-threatening miscarriage, then the subsequent miscarriage of justice at the hand of an insane religiously motivated law and government.

    That this could soon be the situation in much of the USA as well (ever here in Oz there are fundies praying for a similar outcome here) is beyond sane comprehension. It will cause so much needless suffering. It makes me so sad that there is nothing that I can do to alleviate any of it.
    I was just this morning speaking with a husband and wife customer of mine who are both GP’s. We spoke about this anti-abortion “movement’ sweeping the USA. During the conversation they mentioned their disabled niece here in Australia. She is non-communicative and is in full-time care. She suffers from a blood disorder that causes her menstrual period to sometimes become a severe haemorrhage requiring hospitalisation and transfusion. She will never become pregnant unless she is the victim of rape. The family has requested that she have an hysterectomy to eliminate the severe bleeding she endures, but the 3-person ‘panel’ that considers these things have rejected the request because she happens to have a viable uterus.

    Are the fundies praying or preying? It is hard sometimes for me to tell the difference .

  3. lochaber says

    It’s fucking fascism. they’ve gone all-out, open, fascist.

    Just this time, their immediate target is women and more generally those possessing a uterus, when notable past examples have been Jewish people, Black people, and other races/nationalities.

    They don’t care about logic, reasoning, or sense, hypocrisy and deceit are virtues, and the only thing that matters is acquiring and exercising power (in this case, mostly exercising it over women and others with a uterus)

    I saw the headlines (but didn’t read…) of that Vice(?) article about some journalist being able to buy a list of people (cell phones?) who visited a given Planned Parenthood location for the past 6(?) months for not terribly much. And then a coworker told me that Amazon is now requiring uploads of Drivers Licenses/IDs to purchase at-home pregnancy tests.

    And nevermind that the headlines are full of articles about various states climbing all over each other to ban IUDs, ban contraceptives, ban condoms, ban pre/extramarital sex, etc.

    I’ve heard people claim it’s not going to be as bad as the days when the wire clotheshanger was the notable method of desperation, due to the prevalence of the internet and Mifepristone and Misoprostol, and I hope that’s true, but I’m concerned that some of these right wing groups will pose as black market sources, and send out placebos, or even poisoned doses…

  4. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    “But as I said, thankfully this will only be a problem in 26-28% of pregnancies.”

    I’ve heard some women get pregnant several times. A 72-74% chance for a normal pregnancy means less than 50% for three. I wonder how many unreported pregnancies Sarah Palin has had?

  5. Katydid says

    @Lassi: I hate that I know this, but she reports having had 7 pregnancies, with 2 ending in miscarriage. If you take this as true, then her story that she was pregnant with her 7th child (with profound medical issues) is troubling. Depending on who she’s telling the story to, she was either 7 or 8 months along (which is too far along to fly, and apparently every single airline crew whose path she crossed…never noticed a woman that far along?

    It was criminally negligent of her to wake in Dallas with a breached placenta and instead of going straight to a top-notch hospital just 5 minutes away, chose to stand around for hours waiting to give a speech, then off to an airport for two flights and a 3-hour layover between the flights while in active labor. Upon landing in Anchorage, instead of going straight to the state number-one hospital, instead driving 2 hours to a tiny little regional facility not prepared to handle twins, much less special-needs and pre-term pregnancies.

    Additionally, the doctor that claims to have delivered this premature, multiply-disabled fetus did not even have a current certification to deliver infants–her specialty was treating adolescents. And the very next day, she checked herself out of the hospital and took a premature (yet still 10 pounds?!?), DS infant with a hole in his heart…with her to work. Because she’s soooo tough.

    Under the GOP’s desired new rules, shouldn’t she be in jail for 40 years for attempted murder of that fetus?

  6. Katydid says

    The GOP hates women, and has for as long as I have been aware of politics (decades at this point). Women are easy targets because so many men hate women and take great pleasure in seeing them bullied. Ever since Reagan embraced the fundagelicals, the GOP has embraced fundagelical teachings that women are weak and sinful and too stupid to be allowed out of the house unless they’re accompanied by a male relative (father/husband/brother).

    Estimates of miscarriage rates vary, but perhaps up to 50% of all pregnancies self-abort, often before the woman even realizes she’s pregnant. If a period is 2 days late and a bit heavy, was that a miscarriage or simply a common variable?

    A bully tactic is to torture people over things they have no control over (the color of their skin, the body they were born into, their basic biology). The GOP is made up of a bunch of bullies.

  7. L.Long says

    LouiSINa-stan…another state filled with a majority of ST00PID voters putting psychopaths into power. Good reason not to live there. I wonder how many businesses and sport groups will leave or never enter these states for fear of having so many workers/executives jailed???

  8. philipelliott says

    While Governor Edwards is an advocate of forced birth, he has said publicly that he would veto this bill. Specifically, because the bill claims it cannot be superseded or invalidated by federal legislation or jurisprudence, which is blatantly unconstitutional.
    This, of course, is not a reason to celebrate. the legislature will either override the veto, or the language will be changed.

    Sorry i can’t find a link, but I heard it on WWNO this morning.

  9. Katydid says

    It’s not just Louisiana; it’s Alabama and Georgia and Florida and South Carolina and North Carolina and Tennessee and Kentucky and West Virginia and Kansas and Indiana and Colorado and Utah and especially Idaho and Wyoming…and lately, Virginia and Pennsylvania said “hold my beer”.