El Salvadoran Woman Finally Ends Life-Threatening Pregnancy

Beatriz (a pseudonym), the 22-year-old El Salvadoran woman who was in desperate need of an emergency abortion in order to survive, finally underwent a C-section after being granted permission by the El Salvador health minister. The El Salvador Supreme Court had refused Beatriz an abortion despite the fact that both she and the fetus would have died had she been forced to carry the baby to term.

Beatriz suffers from lupus, an autoimmune disease that is exacerbated by pregnancy. Her fetus had a fatal condition known as anencephaly, meaning that it had no brain and only a partially formed skull. The baby died five hours after the C-section was performed.

Beatriz is now in stable condition in intensive care. However with every moment that El Salvador’s Supreme Court delayed in handing down its verdict, Beatriz’s condition worsened. She was forced to wait until her third trimester before the government and the Catholic Church in her country felt comfortable with the kind of procedure she would undergo. At this late stage of pregnancy, the procedure is being called an ‘induced birth’ as opposed to an abortion, allowing the Supreme Court to still uphold its strict abortion laws.

In fact, the type of C-section Beatriz received is called a hysterotomy and is actually a form of abortion rarely carried out in the U.S. due to its high level of risk. Doctors knew at 10 weeks that Beatriz required an abortion, but the punishment for abortion in El Salvador can be up to 30 years imprisonment. For the Supreme Court to delay its verdict until it could take cover under acceptable terminology put Beatriz’s life severely at risk.

We hope that Beatriz makes a full recovery and she will soon return home to her 14-month-old son.

Photo by Flickr user Mark Nelson under license from Creative Commons 2.0 


Natasha Turner is a freelance journalist and editor based in London and a former Ms. editorial intern.