Salvadoran abortion laws are what pro-choice advocates in the United States would call extreme. The abortion laws of El Salvador, which reflect many of the laws and general practices in Central America, deny abortion to women — no matter what the woman’s circumstances are. A ban on all abortions includes the criminalization of abortion for: (1) women whose lives are threatened; (2) rape victims; (3) fetal abnormalities; and (4) other medical reasons for abortion other than social economic or personal reasons. To the pro-life advocates, the Salvadoran abortion laws may be the ideal jurisprudence; however, a complete ban on abortion does entail consequences that may be disturb even the most extreme pro-life activists.
A very recent Salvadoran Supreme Court decision illustrated the outcomes involved in a complete abortion ban. On May 29, 2013, the court denied a 22-year-old-woman’s petition for an emergency abortion. The young woman was suffering from an auto-immune condition and doctors said her 18-week pregnancy posed a risk to her health. Scans also revealed that part of her fetus’s brain was missing and would not survive birth. Despite strong medical evidence, and a petition from the Inter-American Court in favor of the young woman, the Supreme Court denied the petition. Although the Supreme Court denied the petition, it did allow for the young woman to have a cesarean section instead of enduring the full term of the pregnancy. Doctors operated on the young woman and the fetus died five hours after birth.
Doctors in El Salvador face several cases of high-risk pregnancy and rape victims as young as seven who have to endure the hardship of a premature pregnancy. The stringent abortion laws also criminalizes doctor involvement or promotion of abortions. At times, some women, who face high-risk abortions due to a previous medical condition, proceed with an abortion, are prosecuted by the government and sent to jail. These woman face penalties of up to thirty years in prison and many die due to their critical medical conditions. Further, U.N. special reporters have encouraged El Salvador to provide women who face high-risk pregnancies with the option of abortion and provide the right to life for the women seeking the emergency abortions.
For more information please see the following news articles and law journal entry (Spanish):