Will Salvadoran women and girls have to wait another 4 years?

By Larry Ladutke, Country Specialist for El Salvador and a Chair of the Central America Co-Group

Before 1998, Salvadoran law allowed abortion in exceptional circumstances — when it was medically necessary for the health and safety of the woman, when the pregnancy was the result of rape, and when the fetus was not viable. Since then, women and girls have been unable to get the medical attention they need, even in extreme circumstances. It has been this way for almost 20 years now.

4 years ago, Amnesty International and other organizations campaigned to save life of one young woman endangered by this law. Beatriz suffered from lupus and kidney problems. Her doctors determined that carrying the fetus to term would endanger her life, yet they could not help her for fear of being prosecuted and sent to prison. The doctors further found that the fetus would not live after birth, yet the law prohibited them from terminating the pregnancy. The fact that Beatriz had a young son who needed her did not matter.

Thanks to a worldwide campaign, Salvadoran authorities finally allowed Beatriz to have an “emergency caesarian” after making her wait while her medical problems continued. As the doctors predicted, the baby died shortly after birth. Beatriz expressed her gratitude toward all those who took action on her behalf and expressed her hope that “other women won’t have to go through what I suffered.”

Salvadoran women and girls have continued to suffer, without access to the medical care that their doctors determine they need. Girls as young as 9 have been forced to carry pregnancies to term after they have been raped. Women, such as Teodora, continue to serve decades-long prison terms following miscarriages or stillbirths.

The good news is that activism inside El Salvador and international pressure have opened a debate about the abortion ban and the introduction of a law that would allow the procedure for cases involving the health and safety of the woman, rape, or severe fetal abnormalities. This law needs to be debated in the Commission on Legislation and Constitutional Issues and approved before it can be discussed and voted on in the full National Assembly.

Please take action and tell the leaders of the Salvadoran National Assembly to respect the rights of women and girls by supporting the proposal to end the total ban on abortion!

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