The Supreme Court of El Salvador ruled in a four to one decision to deny a life-saving abortion to a woman with an unviable pregnancy.
“Beatriz”, who is currently 22 and is already the mother of a young infant, was diagnosed with multiple severe illnesses including kidney failure and lupus and is now 26 weeks pregnant. The fetus will not survive more than a few days outside the womb (if at all) due to a severe fetal abnormality where part of the brain does not develop. Doctors fear that if she continues with the pregnancy, Beatriz could lose her life. However, abortion under any circumstance is illegal in El Salvador and abortion without approval from the Supreme Court could result in up to 30 years in jail for aggravated homicide.
In their ruling, the judges wrote, “This court determines that the rights of the mother cannot take precedence over those of the unborn child or vice versa, and that there is an absolute bar to authorising an abortion as contrary to the constitutional protection accorded to human persons ‘from the moment of conception.'” The one dissenting judge, Florentin Melendez, argued that the court needed to affirm Beatriz’s request to “guarantee that the medical personnel would not omit [any treatments] and would act diligently at all times, without having to recur to legal authorisation to protect the life of the mother and the human being she is carrying in her womb.”
Victor Hugo Mata, Beatriz’s lawyer, told reporters, “We cannot appeal the case because this was the last step, the Supreme Court… The only way now is to go to the international courts. [But] everyday, the health of Beatriz is [getting] worse. If they wait another week or two weeks, she will be too feeble to endure the operation.”