El Salvador's Supreme Court Continues to Toy with Young Mother's Life

Press Release
May 17, 2013

El Salvador's Supreme Court Continues to Toy with Young Mother's Life

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – 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 shows no humanity, Amnesty International said.

Beatriz, a 22-year-old woman whose case is gathering attention around the world, is five months pregnant and has been diagnosed with a number of severe illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease. She is currently in the 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.

"It is unconscionable that the El Salvador Supreme Court has decided to take its time when urgent action is needed to save the life of a young woman who needs an abortion to live," said Kathryn Striffolino, Amnesty International USA's Crisis Prevention and Response advocate. "By deciding to take 15 days to render a decision, the court has in effect condemned Beatriz and her family to increasing anxiety and further cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment."

The United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and four U.N. 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 his mother. She was ill before she became pregnant, but her illnesses were under control.

Amnesty International is calling on President Mauricio Funes to immediately intervene and authorize a life-saving abortion for Beatriz. More than 95,000 Amnesty International activists have signed petitions and many more are currently taking action.

"The Salvadoran authorities must immediately step in and save Beatriz’s life," said Striffolino. "It is the only humane and acceptable course of action. It is also in line with their international human rights obligations."

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.