Thanks to our colleagues at the O'Neill Institute for permitting us to cross-post this from their blog.
This post was written by Francisco J. Quintana (Legal Intern from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella), and Paula Avila Guillen (Institute Associate) of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. Any questions or comments about this post can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Beatriz”, a 22-year old woman, is pregnant with an anencephalic fetus. She has been diagnosed with several illnesses, including lupus and renal failure. Her anencephalic fetus will die almost immediately, likely in the first hours or days after the birth. Her pregnancy is threatening her life. Her family is extremely poor and her likelihood of survival diminishes with each day that passes. Yet, abortion is not an option for Beatriz.
Beatriz lives in El Salvador. As in most Latin American countries, El Salvador criminalizes abortion - meaning there is a total abortion ban, which does not contemplate any exception for the health or the life of a pregnant woman. The Huffington Post, quoting the New York Times, explains that “El Salvador has not only a total ban on abortion but also an active law-enforcement apparatus — the police, investigators, medical spies, forensic vagina inspectors and a special division of the prosecutor’s office responsible for Crimes Against Minors and Women, a unit charged with capturing, trying and incarcerating an unusual kind of criminal.” Thus, Beatriz may have to decide between saving her life or going to jail.