San Salvador, Monday, December 2, 2013. Last Friday various organizations presented an international denunciation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the State of El Salvador for the human rights violations suffered by Beatriz.
Beatriz, a 23 year old Salvadoran, who suffers from systematic lupus erythematous exacerbated by lupus nephritis and rheumatoid arthritis, became pregnant at the end of 2012. Through medical exams, the fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly.
This past March, due to Beatriz’s health condition, the treating physicians in the public health system recommended to interrupt the pregnancy since her health was at risk. However, the doctors did not perform the procedure in fear of being criminally punished. This prolonged the pregnancy to the 26th week of pregnancy. This caused an unnecessary increase of suffering and risks to Beatriz’s health and life.
No public authority in the country ruled in favor of Beatriz’s rights. Only under the provisional measures of protection granted by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IA Court) did the Minister of Health proceed to perform a cesarean on June 3rd. The clinical prognosis of the inviability of the fetus outside the womb was confirmed when the fetus died as a new born just five hours after the medical intervention.
El Salvador is one of the seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where abortion is absolutely prohibited without exceptions for extreme circumstances of risk to the health or life of the woman, inviability of the fetus, or pregnancy as a consequence of rape.
Beatriz’s story reflects the consequences of absolute penalty of abortion and the institutional violence that is exercised against the life of Salvadoran girls, young adults, and women. According to data collected by the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugenésico between January of 2000 and March of 2011, a total of 129 women have been prosecuted in El Salvador for crimes of abortion or aggravated homicide. The penalties range between two and forty years in prison; currently, at least thirty women are deprived of liberty for these causes, the majority of which had suffered miscarriages for a variety of obstetric complications.
In relation to the legal restrictions placed on abortion, Dr. Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, affirmed in his 2011 report, “that the creation or the maintenance of criminal laws that criminalize abortion creates and perpetuates the conditions of unsafe, inappropriate, and risky abortions and can result in the violations of the obligations of the States in respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the right to health.”
In the experience lived by Beatriz, the petitioning organizations sustain that the State of El Salvador is responsible for multiple human rights violations suffered by Beatriz, which are found to be protected by the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, and Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.
The objective of this denunciation is to integrally repair the damages suffered by Beatriz and to order the Salvadoran State to modify its internal regulations to full guarantee women, among other rights, the right to health, personal liberty, reproductive rights and the right to effective judicial protection.
As part of the demand the organizations have launched the campaign, “Yo apoyo la demanda de Beatriz, porque me importa salvar la vida de las mujeres” (“I support Beatriz’s demand because it is important to me to save the life of women”). The campaign will be shared through several media outlets starting today and will continue until December 10th, the International Day of Human Rights. We are calling on the general public to express support for Beatriz by sharing the logo and the campaign slogan and by sending messages in reference to the issue.
The petitioning organizations before the IACHR include La Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local de El Salvador, la Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugenésico de El Salvador, IPAS Central America and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).