Do you want to be like El Salvador?

El Salvador has an absolute prohibition on all abortions — they can’t even be done to save the life of the mother (it’s a very Catholic country, are you surprised?) Now a situation has made the news that exposes the villainy of that policy.

A young woman named Beatriz is petitioning El Salvador’s supreme court to be allowed to get an abortion. Why? There’s a couple of really good reasons.

The four-month fetus is acephalic — no brain has formed. It’s doomed. It will never be viable. At best, it will be born, live a few days as a vegetable on life support, and die.

The mother is suffering from complications from lupus and kidney disease. The fetus won’t even get to the point of being born — the mother will be killed by this pregnancy first.

The heartless, amoral, religiously-based rules of that society are condemning this woman to death. In addition, if any doctor honors their Hippocratic oath and helps her live, they can be prosecuted and sentenced to long terms in prison for it.

Beatriz has been refused a necessary and simple medical procedure because the demented fuckwits of the Catholic Church have prioritized dogma over human life. She has to beg authorities, right up to the highest levels of government, for the right to live.

All because some old assholes believe god has told them that the dying lump of meat in her belly is more precious than a woman’s life.


  1. amenhotepstein says

    That was my first thought – “This is where we’re headed”, and it terrifies me. As the father of two daughters, it also enrages me!

    We must fight them – never give up!

  2. mythbri says

    I hate myself for even thinking it, but I hope that she at least lives long enough for this case to mean something in El Salvador. But I don’t think she’ll survive.

    Is there anything we can do to help Beatriz? The article you linked to has no information – nothing about donations or assistance.

    Is it illegal for El Salvadoran women to leave the country pregnant and come back not-pregnant?

  3. Pteryxx says

    …If the Supreme Court turns her down (or even just delays) I wonder if she could seek asylum to save her life.

    Not here, of course. Not in the US of A. Maybe she could get to Canada.

  4. dianne says

    El Salvador isn’t far from Mexico, language and culture are similar, and, IIRC, Mexico has at least slightly saner laws regarding abortion than El Salavador. Does she have funds to get there and is there any mechanism to donate to aid her if not?

  5. says

    The woman’s full name hasn’t been released — just “Beatriz”. It’s hard to provide aid to someone who is in hiding, or is being hidden by authorities.

  6. Pteryxx says

    2012 article with some background on which countries in Latin America have not (completely, formally) banned abortion:

    What the woman in Argentina had to endure is unfortunately the rule in Latin America. Uruguay, widely considered the commonsense Switzerland of South America these days, has now stepped forward to be the exception. On Wednesday, lawmakers there passed a bill to make their small but thriving nation just the third in Latin America to allow abortion beyond cases of rape, incest or a woman’s health. (Only Cuba and Guyana have legalized abortion; it is also legal in Mexico City.) Under the decriminalization measure, which President José Mujica is expected to sign into law next month, women may now have legal abortions under any circumstances in the first trimester of pregnancy.

    Her options might depend on how well she could go underground in another country, how badly women needing abortions get harassed there, and how hostile the legal systems are regardless of the letter of the law.

  7. glodson says

    God damn, that’s sickening. And it is a scary thought that some want to import this needlessly ban on all abortions.

  8. mythbri says

    @Pteryxx #3

    …If the Supreme Court turns her down (or even just delays) I wonder if she could seek asylum to save her life.

    Not here, of course. Not in the US of A. Maybe she could get to Canada.

    I’m completely unfamiliar with rules of asylum – would it just be for Beatriz or could she bring her child, and her partner if she has one?

    Still, having to leave your extended family and friends is such a high price, even if you’re paying it for your life.

  9. Pteryxx says

    mythbri, I don’t know much about asylum either but I think dependent children can come with their parents. I was thinking of Libby Anne’s recent post on a homeschooling family as a whole seeking asylum in the US. (And Walton’s posting about the death of Nanyonjo and gay asylum seekers in the UK being forced to ‘prove’ their orientation and then imprisoned and deported.) And then I think about how the US would likely treat a Central American woman needing an abortion at four months. And then I just want off this planet.

  10. Pteryxx says

    From the Amnesty International article in the OP:

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

    They’ve already delayed for over a month while her medical condition gets worse because of the pregnancy. Sounds like she needs public pressure on her behalf more than money at this point.

  11. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says


    Sounds like she needs public pressure on her behalf more than money at this point.

    Yep. Otherwise, the officials will just delay until she is either dead or far enough along in pregnancy they can say “Oh well, too late now, too bad we wouldn’t couldn’t do it earlier.”

  12. says

    Acephalic fetuses and other embryological malformations are a good litmus test to tell apart abortion oponents who sincerely value «all human life» (*) and those who are just using it as an excuse to impose on women’s sexual behaviour — who see an unwanted pregnancy as a punishment for women who were not chaste enough.

    So I mentioned this situation to my very catholic relatives and, after expressing their sorrow (**) for the situation one timidly interjected: «But how did she got pregnant?»… As if it has any fucking relevance at all.

    (*) Before you ask: Why would I want to tell apart these two kinds of “pro-lifers”? Well, because the counter-argumentation is different for these two sets of opponents. Better said: Sincere pro-lifers are, IMO, misguided people who mean well but have their priorities screwed up by previledge (too rich or too male, namely) or not enough thought put into it. While people who use anti-abortion rhethorics as one more way to impose repressive behaviour codes (“values”, “morals”, they say) deserve from me only a hearty «Fuck you.» for counter-argument…

    (**) All this in Portugal. Where even most religous people aren’t as nutty as they seem to be in the U.S. Not yet, at least.

  13. Pteryxx says

    At this point, even if she had a miscarriage, she and her doctors might get charged and imprisoned anyway just on suspicion of abortion, or just because she’s a woman who raised a fuss. It’s happened before (citing the Time article I linked above):

    Salvadoran lawyers recently won the release of Sonia Tábora, who in 2005 was sentenced to 30 years after she went into premature labor when she was seven months pregnant, lost her baby—and was then falsely accused of inducing an abortion.

    I’d guess Beatriz knows this, but she doesn’t have a choice. Seek out an illegal abortion, like 4 million Latin American women every year (a million of whom end up hospitalized or dying from complications)? She’s already under a hospital’s care for her other conditions. Commit suicide somehow and guarantee, rather than just risk, that her young child loses a parent? Meanwhile if any of the hospital’s doctors go ahead and perform the abortion, Beatriz will probably be the last patient they and any of their assistants ever help. The whole hospital might be held accountable, since according to the article the hospital itself formally requested permission. I don’t know if the hospital administrators are covering their asses here, or standing in solidarity to publically challenge the law; but Beatriz didn’t volunteer to be hospitalized with a doomed fetus. For all we know she’s losing a wanted pregnancy.

    So I mentioned this situation to my very catholic relatives and, after expressing their sorrow (**) for the situation one timidly interjected: «But how did she got pregnant?»… As if it has any fucking relevance at all.

    OH FFS *rage* … If she were the Virgin bloody Mary she’d still just be considered a container that failed in her duty to the sacred anencephalic fetus. ANY excuse to let the women die, how sad that nothing could be done.

    There aren’t enough cute animal photos in the world.

  14. Gregory Greenwood says

    Another example of the human cost of denying essential abortion and healthcare services to women, and yet there are still legions of anti-choicers who are champing at the bit to bring a total ban on abortion to the US. We even get a few of them trying their arm over here un the UK from time to time, though thus far they have lacked the power and infleunce to make that particular nightmare a reality.

    Taking into account their simultaneous attempts to restrict access to contraception, I swear that large numbers of these prating, pious arseholes want to see unwanted and potentially life threatening pregnancy or backstreet hack jobs being the only options open to women. They hate women so much – are so desperate for any opportunity to punish women for the ‘crime’ of being born with a vagina – that they gleefully anticpate a world where women are punished for having sex, because they have no control over their bodies and reproductive capacity, with their choices limited to procreative slavery or playing Russian roulette with unsafe black market abortions.

    Or, in all too many cases, facing a choice between the very great risk of death and imprisonment* through the use of incompetent backstreet abortionists, or the even higher risk of death** if they are forced to go to term with a nonviable pregnancy with complications. It is exactly the kind of lose/lose scenario for women that the xians specialise in.

    It disgusts me that I share a species with these murderous, misogynistic abominations.


    * Or maybe execution, if abortion were to be classed as ‘murder’ in those parts of the US that still engage in the barbarism of the death penalty.

    ** But a completely legal death – the church has no problem with women dying in agony if it is pursuant to the evils of their doctrine.

  15. truthspeaker says

    No, thanks, I’d rather not have CIA-trained, US-taxpayer-funded death squads roaming my streets.

    Oh, this is about insane abortion laws?

    I don’t want those either.

  16. carbonbasedlifeform says

    Basically, what the anti-abortion people are saying is that a dead mother and a dead fetus is morally superior to a dead fetus alone. That makes real sense.

  17. Pteryxx says

    Right, I got so mad I forgot my point. The TIME article mentions some groups that have intervened before:

    “The way they carry out their laws in El Salvador can be vicious,” says Alejandra Cárdenas, Latin America legal adviser for the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, which this week asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene in the case of a mentally ill Salvadoran woman who in August was sentenced to two years in prison for inducing an abortion and then attempted suicide behind bars.

    They, and Amnesty International itself, seem the most likely orgs to call on for direct support of Beatriz. Along with public attention in real time.

    Center for Reproductive Rights

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has a long history, and is currently under pressure to “reform” so it doesn’t embarrass governments as much, apparently. (Its decisions aren’t binding on some of the member states, and they’re not binding on the US.)

    Articles for background reading: Miami Herald and Al Jazeera

  18. truthspeaker says

    So I mentioned this situation to my very catholic relatives and, after expressing their sorrow (**) for the situation one timidly interjected: «But how did she got pregnant?

    Not that it matters to reasonable people, but for all we know she may have gotten pregnant by having sex with her husband, and an abortion to save her life would still be illegal.

  19. dianne says

    What the hell is wrong with people? Seriously, why do people have this urge to torture and murder women for having sex this way? I suppose it’s the same urge that drives men to rape: the need to humiliate and control. But why is that need there?

  20. dianne says

    El Salvador passed a constitutional amendment in 1999 recognizing human life from the moment of conception.

    Even given that, there is no justification for banning abortion. Simply none. The only two possible justifications would be a) fetuses have MORE rights than people after birth or b) any person has the right to use the body of another, regardless of the risk to that person, if the first person’s life is in danger.

    Let’s assume that they mean option b and think about the society that is being proposed.

    In a society where every person had the rights being granted to zygotes/embryos/fetuses in El Salvador, it would be legal to hold someone down, stick a needle in their arm, and force them to donate blood to you. Or to hold them down and stick a bone marrow biopsy needle in them 50-100 times to obtain marrow from them. Or to hold them down and remove a kidney. These acts would be legal regardless of whether the person in question consented to the donation and regardless of the health of the “donor”. The attacks would not be illegal, indeed it would be illegal to fight back in any way. The person taking the tissue would not be liable for any damage done to the donor-infection, bleeding, death-it’s all unimportant. The recipient comes first. Even in the case where the donor’s life is endangered-say, for example, they only had one kidney-that’s still no excuse. There’s a person out there who might die without the kidney so yours is coming out! (On the plus side, I presume it would be ok for you to seek out the recipient and take it back-your life is in danger after all.)

    Does anyone really want to live in that world? Because that’s what the Orwellianly named “pro-life” movement is suggesting should be the norm.In fact, I strongly suspect that if the precedent were set, at least in the US, that the fetus could occupy the uterus against the mother’s objections and at risk to her health there would be no legal reason why what I described should not be the norm.

  21. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I wonder how much plane tickets from El Slavador are.

  22. David Marjanović says

    the dying lump of meat in her belly

    Not dying yet. Brains are completely unnecessary till birth.

  23. MadHatter says

    David Marjanovic

    Not dying yet. Brains are completely unnecessary till birth.

    Not really alive though either then. Since brain death is the usual accepted criteria, this fetus (if born) would already be officially dead.

  24. archimedes109 says

    I am confused (as usual…). Can’t the government authorities in El Salvador just pray and ask god to fix this?

  25. left0ver1under says

    It’s cases like this the make me wonder if or suspect that those adamantly against abortion in all cases are enjoying the woman’s misery in El Salvador. Are they so sociopathic that they’re getting emotional or even sexual gratification from the woman’s physical pain, from the knowledge that the pregnancy will kill her? It certainly seemed that way when Savita Halappanavar was killed (murdered?) by an Irish catholic “hospital”.

  26. BJ Survivor says

    To Dianne @ #23:

    Don’t be silly, Diane. Bodily autonomy does not apply to females and only females (can’t say “women,” because fundie catholics [aka “depraved wastes of carbon”] and other forced-birthers even believe raped little girls must give birth or die trying).

    Via crowepps, whose wit, brilliance, and awesome research abilities will be sorely missed:
    Illinois Dangerous ‘Presumed Consent’ Organ Donor Bill
    Posted on March 6, 2010 -By Warner Todd Huston

    Illinois State Senator Dale Risinger (R, Peoria) has offered a bill in Springfield that drives our society further along the path of making parts of the human body a commodity, undercutting the sacred status of human life.

    SB 3613, the Presumed Donor bill, amends the Illinois Anatomical Gift Act to define all Illinois patients as “presumed donors” unless they specifically avail themselves of the opt out clause. In other words, unless you tell the government that in the case of your presumed brain death you don’t want your body parts cut out and donated to other patients, they will be cut out and given to others.

    The horror, the horror! Someone else might use YOUR body parts without your permission! This bill will lessen autonomy, lead to possibly getting inadequate medical care in a coma and put lives at risk! And yet this site has LOTS of pro-life stuff about how women have an obligation to do exactly that.

    Why any person of conscience remains catholic simply defies all logic…If you can’t bring yourself to stop believing in a sky daddy and his zombie son, why not choose a more benign cult denomination? FFS, go Episcopalian and you can have all the pomp and circumstance of the rcc, yet vastly less of the misogyny, bigotry, and homophobia.

  27. scimaths says

    It is unfortunate that the Drs and hospitals in these situations can’t use a bit of imagination instead of running to the authorities for permission.

    That is, instead of saying “pregnant”, declare the woman to be suffering from fibroids/endo/polyps and give immediate treatment without involving the religious control-freak overlords at all.

  28. Azuma Hazuki says

    But see, this is a Religious and Theological Matter of Morals, Concerning the Dignity of Human Life as Given By God (TM).

    You see, the baby is innocent before it’s born. The mother, being an adult, may go to Hell and be burned and tortured and mangled and shredded and crushed for allllll eternity, and will if she commits murder via abortion. But as it stands the baby won’t.

    So you have to let the baby be born, so it can…er…maybe grow up and…uh…also stand a chance of going to Hell for an eternity of mind-flaying torture…?

    Yeah, these guys are batting a thousand here aren’t they?

  29. Anoia says

    There is a long article on San Salvador’s abortion ban in the New York Times from 2006:

    As they do in any investigation, the police collect evidence by interviewing everyone who knows the accused and by seizing her medical records. But they must also visit the scene of the crime, which, following the logic of the law, often means the woman’s vagina.

    “Yes, we sometimes call doctors from the Forensic Institute to do a pelvic exam,” Tópez said, referring to the nation’s main forensic lab, “and we ask them to document lacerations or any evidence such as cuts or a perforated uterus.” In other words, if the suspicions of the patient’s doctor are not conclusive enough, then in that initial 72-hour period, a forensic doctor can legally conduct a separate search of the crime scene. Tópez said, however, that vaginal searches can take place only with “a judge’s permission.” Tópez frequently turned the pages of a thick law book she kept at hand. “The prosecutor can order a medical exam on a woman, because that’s within the prosecutor’s authority,” she said.

  30. burgundy says

    Anoia: that is… I don’t have words strong enough for what that is. But I would bet large sums of money that they don’t do nearly as comprehensive a physical exam when a woman reports she’s been raped.

  31. Pteryxx says

    Looks like Mexico wouldn’t be a solution either. Even when abortions should be legal, women have to seek permission and are frequently given the runaround or flat-out denied. Source (via theophontes)

    Eighty percent of Mexicans support legal abortion in the cases outlined by the law, according to a 2001 Population Council Study. Yet, Human Rights Watch has documented that medical and police workers often discourage women from aborting by using moral arguments, misinformation and bureaucratic delays. And, because abortion is banned under any circumstances after 12 weeks, some women who begin the legal process simply run out of time.

    Celia and Hilda did continue to pursue the legal route to an abortion. Next, the police sent Hilda to another clinic to obtain medical permission for an abortion. Permission was finally granted. But Hilda and her mother had spent a month trying to obtain legal permission, and Hilda was now 14 weeks pregnant, two weeks too far along to obtain a legal abortion in a hospital.

    But they tried anyway. Celia took her daughter and the certificate to the Regional Hospital. But the doctor didn’t care about the certificate. Celia says they were told that abortion is a sin and that the hospital did not kill people. The doctor recommended that Hilda begin prenatal care.

    from earlier in the article:

    Mexican law allows abortion in three instances: in cases of rape, when the fetus is deformed and when the pregnancy puts the woman’s life in danger. But women who should legally be allowed to obtain abortions are often unable to.

    Maria, 44, and Hilda, 19, both sought abortions. Both fit the criteria for a legal abortion. Both nearly died. They narrowly avoided becoming statistics, adding to Chiapas’ sky-high maternal mortality rate, the highest in Mexico. The second-highest cause of maternal mortality in the state? Hemorrhages resulting from abortions.

    How risky?

    SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS — Ending an unwanted pregnancy is risky in Mexico, where, according to the National Geography and Information Institute (INEGI), 31 percent of abortions end in death.

    Much more detail on the blockading of supposedly legal abortions in Mexico in this 2006 Human Rights Watch report: Mexico: The Second Assault

  32. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

    Gregory Greenwood @16:

    Whilst the law on abortion is sane in most of the UK, it’s still repressive in Northern Ireland. Savita Halappanavar would likely have had similar treatment if she’d been north of the border, as the restrictions on abortion in NI are very similar to those in the Republic. A minor consolation is that it is relatively easy and legal (though it can carry social implications if discovered) for women in NI to travel to England to obtain a termination, but this wouldn’t help if the hospital was waiting for the woman to go from having a “risk to health” to a “risk to life”.