When the right to choose becomes the need to choose

Today, Beatriz, the pregnant 22-year-old woman from El Salvador, finally was permitted to terminate her life-threatening pregnancy. El Salvador has exceptionally strict anti-abortion laws, prohibiting them in even the most dangerous of situations, just like the one Beatriz found herself in. Beatriz suffers from lupus (SLE), a diseases that can be further complicated by pregnancy. Women with lupus are more likely to miscarry, and 20-30% of women who become pregnant experience aggravated symptoms, such as renal disease and high blood pressure, which can result in preeclampsia. They are also more likely to experience complications during birth.

Beatriz was suffering from an active lupus flare that would have made giving birth fatal. In addition, her fetus had anencephaly — a condition where the fetus fails to develop a brain. Beatriz’s fetus had no brain and was missing large portions of its skull. The fetus was guaranteed to die within a few days of being born, if it even survived the complicated labor Beatriz would have been put through.

El Salvador does not allow abortions even in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. In a ruling, the highest court of El Salvador rule 4-1 in favor of the law — Beatriz was not to have an abortion. As Beatriz fought for an exception, her condition worsened. Her kidneys failed. And her fetus was still going to die, no matter what.

In the end, Beatriz was allowed to have an “induced birth” at 26 weeks. Doctors performed a C-Section to remove the fetus. It died five hours later. Since the procedure occurred after the third trimester had started, the courts could use the term “induced birth” to prevent Beatriz from being penalized by the anti-abortion laws. Still, this procedure is a form of abortion, albeit a highly dangerous one, called a hysterotomy. A rose by any other name may smell just as sweet, but an abortion called induced birth saved Beatriz from 30 years in prison.

 

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