A critically ill woman has been denied abortion by the Supreme Court of El Salvador; a decision that attracted instant criticism from women's rights and health groups across the world. El Salvador is majorly a Roman Catholic nation; hence, abortions are prohibited legally under all circumstances. In fact, protection of life "from the moment of conception" is a constitutional clause. Pregnant women who undergo abortions face criminal charges in the country, as do the doctors who perform them. However, in this case, the fetus has almost no chance of survival as it is developing without a complete brain. Her lawyers had argued that continuation of this pregnancy will place her life at risk.
In order to protect her privacy, the real name of the woman is not released to the public and she is known as Beatriz. Her health is extremely delicate, as she suffers from lupus, which causes the immune system to malfunction, as well as, from kidney failure. Her pregnancy has the potential to put her life at serious risk. The fetus has little or no chance of survival as it suffers from a condition known as anencephaly, where the brain fails to develop or develops partially.
Beatriz's request for termination of her pregnancy was supported by hospitals, health groups, groups for women's rights and even by the Ministry of Health. However, the Supreme Court panel rejected the request by a four-to-one verdict.
The only judge who voted in favor, Judge Florentin Melendez, had said that his decision was based on the specific case and did not mean that he is in favor of abortions. He held the opinion that the judgment should have been in her favor in order to affirm that the medical team does not exclude [any treatments] and conduct themselves diligently at all times. Without making it necessary to seek legal approval to save from harm the life of the pregnant woman and the human life growing in her womb.
Judge Gonzalez, who was one of the judges in the panel, was not convinced that the pregnancy posed any serious threat to Beatriz's life.
According to the court ruling, the rights of the pregnant woman cannot take superiority over those of the unborn baby or vice versa. The court also ruled that there was an absolute bar on permitting abortion, as opposing to the constitutional rights accorded to all humans 'from the moment of conception'.
Doctors across the country have spoken up against the verdict. They said that prolonging the pregnancy will not only increase the risk to Beatriz's life, but also, make treatment more difficult and dangerous.
Campaigners in El Salvador fighting for legalization of abortions, especially in cases like this where a woman's or the fetuses life is at risk have condemned the verdict and termed it "Irresponsible". According to Morena Herrera, director of one of the campaign groups, the judges did not consider the failing health of the fetus and the fact that it had almost zero chance of survival.