Justice for Beatriz?

UPDATE: Beatriz send thanks to those who spoke out for rights, after receiving life-saving treatment during her pregnancy.

By Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner

Twenty-two-year-old Beatriz from El Salvador waited for 14 weeks to receive life-saving medical treatment, knowing that the fetus growing inside her was missing most of its brain and skull and would not survive, and that her own life was at greater risk each and every day due to medical conditions aggravated by pregnancy.

Beatriz underwent a cesarean section on Monday, June 3, and her infant died not long after delivery. As of midday on June 4, Beatriz remained in hospital in stable condition.

Amnesty International members from around the world campaigned in support of Beatriz’s right to make the decision to end her pregnancy to safeguard her health. Concerted action over many weeks drew international media attention and kept pressure on the government of El Salvador.

Beatriz received treatment that ultimately saved her life and this is good news and a cause for celebration at the end of a long campaign. But was justice served?

The government of El Salvador did not change its laws. Abortion continues to be prohibited under all circumstances, even if the mother’s life is endangered. The next woman in Beatriz’s situation will be forced to suffer through a frightening pregnancy, hoping she lives to see the birth of her child. If she is lucky she will make contact with an organization who will advocate on her behalf, but even then, receiving medical treatment in a timely manner is unlikely.

With the eyes of the world on El Salvador, Beatriz waited for 14 weeks, was denied an abortion, and was only able to have labor induced after intervention from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

Beatriz’s story is good news—concerted action by Amnesty International members from around the world helped to ensure that at long last, Beatriz received treatment. But we have much work to do around the world and in our own region, where countries including El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile ban abortion in all circumstances, denying women access to life-saving treatment, and denying women the freedom to make decisions about their bodies and their lives.

There are many more women in Beatriz’s situation in the Americas, and we need to continue our work to bring about policy changes to ensure that no other women or girls have to suffer such cruelty, discrimination, and horrendous experiences when trying to access medical treatment.