In El Salvador, a Country Awaits the Supreme Court Decision on Beatriz’s Life
On Wednesday, May 15 the Supreme Court of El Salvador will hear testimony from Beatriz, the 22-year-old woman who has petitioned the court to allow her to have a life-saving abortion, a procedure prohibited under all circumstances in El Salvador and punishable by lengthy prison terms. She is pregnant with an anencephalic fetus; it is missing most of its brain and will not survive outside the womb. In addition, Beatriz, the mother of a toddler, suffers from lupus, hypertension, and renal insufficiency. Her doctors at the Maternity Hospital, where she has been for almost a month, advised her that an abortion was necessary to save her life.
"I want to live," has been Beatriz's consistent response to her doctors as well as to those who oppose her request.
The court has summoned Beatriz, her lawyers, and her doctors to testify, according to Morena Herrera, president of the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapeutico, Etico and Eugenico (Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion) in a phone call with RH Reality Check. The state prosecutor and the Institute for Legal Medicine will also provide testimony. Both oppose her petition for an abortion. Sí a la Vida, a right-to-life group, requested permission to participate, but was denied. Herrera reports that her group learned recently that the director of the Institute for Legal Medicine is married to a member of the board of directors of Sí a la Vida. Although the Supreme Court has the demonstrated capacity to respond to petitions from Salvadoran citizens on other matters within as little as 24 hours, it has stalled for weeks in this matter. At this point it is unknown whether the court will issue a final decision on May 15.
Beatriz's mother, Delmy, spoke Tuesday at a press conference organized by Herrera and the Citizen Group, saying, "It is now that my daughter needs support and help, not when her health gets even worse.... My daughter wants to live. I don't want my daughter to die.... Her life is in your hands." She has written a letter to the court that will be presented on Wednesday.
Beatriz's petition has ignited controversy and debate on many fronts within El Salvador and around the world. Amnesty International, the United Nations, governments of several countries, and the Interamerican Human Rights Commission strongly support Beatriz. The Catholic Church and so-called right-to-life groups oppose her request.