According to an Amnesty International report, a critically ill and pregnant 22-year-old woman may face jail time in El Salvador if she goes through with what is likely going to be a life-saving abortion. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador regardless of circumstance, and unless the country's Supreme Court, to which she has taken her plight to, steps in and allows her the medical treatment she so urgently needs, Beatriz could lose her life.
The 22-year-old woman and mother of one, Beatriz, is only four-and-a-half months into her pregnancy, but if she continues to carry the fetus to term, doctors believe she could die. She is also suffering from a number of illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease. Doctors have yet to treat her because they fear that if they terminate the pregnancy, they could also face jail time.
The doctors have also confirmed that the fetus has anencephaly, meaning that the fetus is missing large parts of its brain and skull and is expected to die either before it is born, or within a few hours of its birth.
The Health Ministry supports the Beatriz's choice to have an abortion, and Health Minister Isabel Rodriguez announced that the medical team is ready to perform the procedure but is waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision.
Esther Major, Amnesty International's researcher on Central America also added that, "Beatriz’s situation is desperate and must not wait any longer. Her very chances of survival depend on a decision from the authorities ... The delay is nothing short of cruel and inhuman. The government has a duty to ensure Beatriz can access the health-saving treatment she needs."
However, Dr. Carlos Alvarenga of El Salvador's Association of Bioethics says that the doctors "from the perspective of bioethics should preserve the life of both mother and child."
The association also worries that allowing an abortion in this case would set a dangerous precedent for future abortions, and would encourage others to seek terminations of their pregnancies.
As of now, it is unknown whether the Supreme Court will side with Beatriz or not. It has been over a month since the hospital sought permission to treat her and her condition has only worsened since then.
If El Salvador and its officials are at all interested in saving a woman's life, they should put away their religious ideology and government policy for long enough to treat this woman. It is highly unlikely that the child will survive in the condition it is currently in, and if Beatriz does not receive the treatment she so desperately needs, there is good reason to believe that she will not survive either.