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Catholics Condemn Delay in Ruling on Life-Saving Abortion for “Beatriz” in El Salvador

May 17, 2013

Critically ill woman denied immediate access to care by the country’s Supreme Court

Catholics expressed dismay at the unnecessary delay in El Salvador’s Supreme Court ruling on the case involving “Beatriz,” a 22-year-old mother suffering from lupus and kidney failure who sought authorization to undergo the abortion doctors say she needs to save her life.

The fact that the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice has delayed its ruling for three weeks (15 working days) has prolonged the agony and anxiety that Beatriz is being subjected to.

“Beatriz believes that ending this pregnancy is the best choice for her, for her one-year-old son and for her family,” said Jacqueline Nolley Echegaray, senior international program associate at Catholics for Choice. “The Constitutional Chamber is ignoring the recommendations of numerous medical experts, public health best practice, international human rights standards and the freedom of conscience of Beatriz herself.”

Abortion is illegal in El Salvador under all circumstances, and women suspected of terminating a pregnancy are routinely charged with aggravated homicide and tried in court. Those convicted have been sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison, and doctors and other medical personnel face criminal charges if suspected of having assisted in performing an abortion.

Rosa Gutierrez, co-coordinator of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir El Salvador, said, “The magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber do not understand what they are dealing with. They do not understand the concept of freedom of conscience, they do not understand what it means to suffer from lupus, or for a fetus to be anencephalic. They don’t care about Beatriz’s life but rather only about winning. Women should have liberty. Instead, our lives are considered worthless. The fetus has more rights than the woman. This has to change.”

“Unfortunately,” continued CFC’s Nolley Echegaray, “the bishops have far too much influence over public policy. They do not speak for Catholics, let alone the entire population, but too many politicians seek out their opinions anyway. Bowing to the bishops’ draconian antiabortion laws, especially in life-threatening circumstances like these, will hurt policymakers in the long run. I hope voters remember this avoidable tragedy and elect people who stand up to the bishops’ interference, not kneel down before it.”