SAN SALVADOR – A Salvadoran woman defied the government of El Salvador in 2013 by requesting the termination of a life-threatening pregnancy, after being diagnosed with lupus, kidney failure and arthritis. In addition, the diagnoses indicated that her fetus had anencephaly, a serious defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.
The Salvadoran State, which penalizes abortion without exception, denied the request.
The baby died five hours after birth and the woman four years later.
The so-called “Beatriz case” —the woman asked while she was alive that her full name not be shared for the safety of her family— was a feat at the time, and although the Salvadoran courts still do not allow the termination of the pregnancy, the debate has returned to fuel 10 years of the case.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court HR) will analyze this March 22 and 23 whether or not the Salvadoran State is responsible for the alleged violation of the rights to life of the deceased young woman, as well as to her personal integrity, to her guarantees legal proceedings, private life, equality before the law, judicial protection and the right to health.
The case could be emblematic, experts say, and set an important precedent in El Salvador, in the region and the world, experts say.
“Beatriz represents an opportunity so that the cases that come after it can continue expanding the issue and the importance of reproductive rights,” explained Liliana Caballero, advocacy officer at the Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil).
Human rights organizations in El Salvador in favor of the approval of sexual and reproductive rights point out that the “Beatriz case” is a combination of factors of vulnerability and discrimination associated with the condition of a young woman and a person in a situation of poverty.
“The denial or imposition of barriers to access to a safe abortion constitutes discrimination and violence against women and people with the capacity to gestate,” said Marisol Escudero, coordinator of content and legal strategy for Ipas Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the organizations involved in the “Beatriz case”.
“Beatriz was a young woman who lived in conditions of poverty and in a rural context, which already placed her in a vulnerable position facing structural barriers to accessing health services,” Escudero told the Voice of America.
The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion of El Salvador and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) are among those seeking the Inter-American Court to declare the international responsibility of El Salvador for alleged violations of human rights in the “Beatriz case”.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) considered in 2020 that although the protection of life from conception constitutes a legitimate aim, “the pain and suffering that Beatriz went through since she requested the interruption of the pregnancy and even after the birth and death, constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” .
The Commission declared the State of El Salvador “responsible” for the violation of human rights established in the American Convention and in the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. Also in the Belém do Pará Convention, which obliges States to prevent and punish violence against women.
How did the case start?
In her first pregnancy, Beatriz was hospitalized twice for anemia and for complications from lupus, and although she had high blood pressure during delivery, her son survived after a cesarean section and 38 days under supervision.
In 2013, Beatriz got pregnant again. This time her risk was greater, as the medical team explained to her the danger of continuing with the pregnancy due to her illnesses, and also, because the fetus had incomplete skull and brain development.
Beatriz requested the termination of her pregnancy and faced “a via crucis in the health system of El Salvador,” said María Díaz de León, deputy director of Advocacy for Ipas Latin America and the Caribbean (Ipas LAC), one of the colligating organizations. if.
The young woman was referred to several medical teams who concluded that she had no chance of surviving the delivery even when it was completed, Díaz de León explained to the Voice of America.
The young woman ran into the wall of criminalizing abortion, since Salvadoran legislation condemns all forms of abortion, including therapeutic abortion, and punishes both women and doctors who perform it, explained Díaz de León.
The penalties in El Salvador for performing an abortion can range from two to eight years in prison. However, there are cases in which the crime can change to aggravated homicide and in that case the sentence can reach up to 30 years.
“The hearing before the Court is decisive in the search for justice for Beatriz and her family. We seek to show the adverse effects that absolute penalization has for women who, like Beatriz, need the interruption of their pregnancy,” added Díaz de León.
Other countries in the region that penalize abortion are Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
In October 2021, the Congress of El Salvador rejected reforming the Penal Code to exempt from criminal liability those who consent to or perform an abortion when the life of the woman is at risk, when the life of the fetus is unviable, and when the pregnancy is the product of of rape or rape in women and minors.
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Source: VOA Español