El Salvador Must Act Immediately to Save Severely Ill Pregnant Woman’s Life

Press Release
May 2, 2013

El Salvador Must Act Immediately to Save Severely Ill Pregnant Woman’s Life

Delay in Salvadoran Supreme Court Ruling on Therapeutic Abortion Places Woman’s Life at Serious Risk

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(NEW YORK) – The Salvadoran authorities must urgently comply with a recommendation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide a seriously ill pregnant woman with vital medical treatment within 72 hours, Amnesty International said today.

The woman known as Beatriz, 22, is five months pregnant and has been diagnosed with severe illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease. Doctors have also confirmed that the fetus she is carrying is anencephalic (missing a large part of its brain and skull), which means it is expected to die before birth, or within a few hours or days after being born.

Beatriz has sought a medically necessary abortion. However, abortion is illegal under any circumstances in El Salvador without permission from authorities. Her doctors have stated that Beatriz could die if she continues with the pregnancy, but they have not provided her with the treatment she needs as they fear that if they interrupt the pregnancy they could be prosecuted under the strict laws that criminalize abortion.

“Beatriz's life is hanging in the balance because of unjustifiable delays on behalf of the authorities,” said Esther Major, Amnesty International's Central America researcher. “The Salvadoran authorities must comply with the Inter-American Commission's recommendations and allow Beatriz to live and to care for her one-year-old son. Beatriz's life is in their hands.”

On March 22, the health professionals treating Beatriz requested permission from the Salvadoran authorities to carry out the abortion necessary to safeguard her health and life. They also asked for a guarantee that the doctors treating her would not be prosecuted under the country's strict laws, which prohibit abortion in all circumstances.

When the authorities failed to respond, Beatriz's lawyers took the request to the country's Supreme Court. The Court has still not issued a decision, despite the urgency of the case and the fact that she is currently suffering cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.

El Salvador's Penal Code establishes that any person who requests or carries out an abortion could receive a long prison sentence. This means that both the doctors and Beatriz herself could risk imprisonment if the pregnancy was interrupted without permission from the authorities.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.

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