REQUEST FOR SOLIDARITY

 

El Salvador: woman denied life saving medical intervention

 

From: Amnesty International, 15 April 2013

 

http://www.refworld.org/docid/5177d9574.html

 

Beatriz is a 22-year-old woman with a high risk pregnancy who is being denied access to

life saving medical treatment that she urgently needs in El Salvador. Her life is at risk and

she is suffering cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

 

Beatriz suffers from health problems that put her life at risk while she is pregnant. She has a history of lupus, a

autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the person’s own tissue. She also has other

medical conditions, including kidney disease related to the lupus, and she suffered serious complications during

her previous pregnancy. Beatriz has been diagnosed as being at high risk of pregnancy-related death if she

continues with the pregnancy. Three scans have confirmed that the foetus is anencephalic (lacking a large part of

the brain and skull). Almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after birth.

 

Beatriz has been requesting the recommended medical intervention for over a month. Beatriz wants to live and has

requested an abortion. She is now 4 and a half months pregnant. The medical professionals have not acted in

accordance with her wishes as yet because they feel unable to terminate her pregnancy without the express

assurance from the Salvadoran government that they will not be prosecuted for administering the life saving

treatment she needs. Abortion is criminalised in all circumstances in El Salvador. Under Article No. 133 of the

Penal Code, anyone who provides, or tries to access, abortion services can face lengthy prison sentences.

 

The health professionals responsible for Beatriz’s care have requested permission from the authorities to proceed

with the treatment. As yet no response has been given. Anxiety and suffering increase for Beatriz and her family

every day as concerns for her survival grow. Beatriz has a one year old son. The physical and mental anguish she

is experiencing is contributing to her health condition.

 

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

·           Calling on the authorities to prevent any further denial of treatment and ill-treatment and order the immediate

unfettered access by Beatriz to the life saving treatment she needs, in accordance with her wishes and the

recommendations of medical staff;

·           Urging them to immediately ensure that the health professionals are enabled to provide the treatment necessary

to save Beatriz’s life without the threat, risk or fear of criminal prosecution for doing so in accordance with Beatriz’s

wishes.

·           Urging them to decriminalise abortion in all circumstances and ensure safe and legal access by women and

girls to abortion services necessary to preserve their life or health, or if they are pregnant as a result of rape.

 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 27 MAY 2013 TO:

Minister of Health

Dra. María Isabel Rodríguez

Ministerio de Salud

Dirección postal: Calle Arce No.827,

San Salvador, El Salvador

Fax: +503 2221 0991

Email: mrodriguez@salud.gob.sv

Salutation: Dear Minister/Estimada

Ministra

 

President

Mauricio Funes

Presidente de la República de El

Salvador

Dirección postal: Alameda Dr. Manuel

Enrique Araujo, No. 5500,

San Salvador, El Salvador

Fax +503 2243 6860

Salutation: Dear Mr/ Estimado Sr

 

And copies to:

The Citizens Group for the

Decriminalisation of Therapeutic,

Ethical and Eugenic Abortion

Fax: +503 2226 0356 (say “tono de fax”)

Email: agrupacionporladespenalizacion@gmail.com

 

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

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RE: El Salvador: Citizen’s group called for legal action by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) as a woman accused of having an abortion died in jail. The group is further requesting a review of the case of another woman in El Salvador sentenced to 30 years in jail for seeking an abortion21 June 2012  [Posted on this listserve 17 August]

Having read this news item on the Campaign listserve a few days ago, the Central American Women’s Network in London has just informed us that there have been developments with regard to the case of Sonia Tabora, the woman jailed for 30 years – she has been freed. Here is their news release:

20 August 2012

A young woman has returned to her home in El Salvador after seven years in prison – for a miscarriage. Since the country’s stringent anti-abortion legislation was enacted in 1998, El Salvador has imprisoned 628 women accused of having a pregnancy termination. Sonia Tabora was one of them.

The Sonsonate court in El Salvador’s eastern region has recognised its mistake, following a review of Sonia’s case. The review was secured by the coordinated efforts of tens of Salvadoran civil society organisations, led by the Citizens Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion. These organisations labelled the judiciary’s mistake “state violence”.

Sonia was born in Sacacoyo, a village where 40 per cent of the population live in poverty. She experienced injustice at 18 when the man who had raped her was acquitted. And Sonia also had to survive a common experience for poor women in Central America of being abandoned by her partner after becoming pregnant.

Sonia hid her pregnancy from her employers for fear of losing her job as a maid. In February 2005, during a visit to her hometown when she was seven months pregnant, she unexpectedly gave birth without help in a coffee plantation. Sonia’s sister and father found her bleeding, in shock and speechless, and took her to hospital. But a doctor there reported her to police, assuming she had provoked the abortion. Sonia was later accused of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in jail.

The coalition of groups that campaigned for Sonia’s freedom believed her trial violated legal procedures. They challenged the verdict that she had caused the abortion, which was based on a single doctor’s word, despite lack of evidence or a post-mortem on the fetus.

El Salvador has one of the most stringent bans on abortion, which allows no exception in cases of rape, incest, a threat to the woman’s life or severe fetal abnormality. Neighbouring countries – Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala – share similar legislation, though the latter two nations allow therapeutic abortion to save the woman’s life.

Anti-abortion laws not only regulate access to safe abortion, but also ban the use of the morning after pill and restrict the content of sex education.

In the Central America region 95 per cent of all abortions are unsafe, including self-induced abortion and surgery conducted by non-professionals. Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal death, with high mortality rates of between 100 to 120 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The overwhelming majority of maternal deaths and imprisonment after abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth in El Salvador happen to illiterate women from poor, rural backgrounds – and they are primarily young women. Women like Sonia, who cannot afford a lawyer, are assigned a public attorney who, in line with a culture that penalises abortion, do not dispute the lack of evidence and only aim to reduce the sentence.

Although Sonia has been released, 24 other women remain incarcerated for miscarriage. Activists claim the outcome in Sonia’s case sets a precedent and pledge they will “continue to struggle for the freedom of other women prisoners in the country in the same circumstances”. Campaigners say a public debate has been stirred, with in-depth media analysis of the issue, and they seek to use this opportunity to overturn the strict ban on abortion.

Central America Women’s Network (CAWN)

www.cawn.org  

www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/03/21/tragedy-in-el-salvador-church-supported-laws-lead-to-death-mother-two-jailed-afte

by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check

March 21, 2012 – 12:31pm

El Salvador today is not a good place to be a woman. In 1998, the government passed a new Penal Code creating a complete ban on abortion. No exceptions. This was a shift from an earlier law which allowed abortions in cases of threats to the health or life of the woman, as well as for rape, incest, or severe fetal abnormality. Passage of the ban made El Salvador one of only five countries in Latin America–including Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Chile–that maintain an absolute ban abortion.

And now women’s groups are fighting it. Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights joined with local Salvadoran organization Colectiva de Mujeres para el Desarrollo Local to file a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights protesting the current law and based on the case of a woman who died in prison after being jailed for a miscarriage.

Reading the words of the ban underscores just how draconian it is. Chapter II of El Salvador’s reformed Penal Code, dealing with “Crimes Against the Life of Human Beings in the First Stages of Development,” penalizes women who induce their own abortions; give their consent to someone else to induce an abortion; doctors, pharmacists or other health care workers who practice abortions; persons who encourage a woman to have an abortion or provide the financial means to obtain an abortion; and persons who unintentionally cause an abortion. According to an October 2010 shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Report on Violations of Women’s Human Rights Due to the Complete Criminalization of Abortion:

El Salvador’s restrictive abortion laws were further solidified in 1999 with a constitutional amendment defining a human being “from the moment of conception.

For good measure, and to make sure these laws were strictly enforced against apparently dangerous women trying desperately to control their lives, the country established a policing apparatus to prosecute, investigate and denounce any suspicious activities in public hospitals and other places in the country.

El Salvador’s ultra-conservative Catholic Church hierarchy played a leading role in passing the new law banning abortion under any circumstance.human rights analysis conducted in the years after the new penal code was put in place underscores how the shift in the Church’s leadership and philosophy, from the seventies when it focused on social justice and organizing peasants to the nineties, when things changed dramatically, contributed heavily to passage of the ban. According to the analysis, the Roman Catholic Church and right-wing Catholic groups in countries like El Salvador… “exert direct influence on regulatory changes that limit the exercise of women’s rights, counter to international agreements.”

The Catholic Church’s role as a protector of social justice and human rights, and its impact on social issues changed… with the appointment of the new Archbishop of San Salvador. He is a member of the right-wing Opus Dei and has the support of the ruling class as well as close ties with right-wing nongovernmental organizations. This change has influenced the stance of both the Church and the government with regard to social issues that affect women in particular.

In 1997, the Church and right-wing Catholic groups joined with others in a full-on campaign against abortion, mobilizing students from Catholic schools, campaigning through the media and using other means of pushing for the passage of the new penal code and the complete ban until it was passed.

Since its passage, according to CRR, “the ban has resulted in tragic and often fatal consequences” for the women living in the country, resulting in “the arbitrary imprisonment of women suffering from miscarriages and complications in their pregnancies.”

Such was the case of “Manuela” (a pseudonym). According to CRR, Manuela was a 33-year-old Salvadoran mother of two who was  convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison after suffering an apparent miscarriage and severe complications giving birth. No trial, no appeal. Thirty years.

From the moment Manuela arrived at the hospital seeking emergency health  care, slipping in and out of consciousness and hemorrhaging, doctors treated her as if she had attempted an abortion and immediately called the police. She was shackled to her hospital bed and accused of murder.

Manuela  was sentenced to 30 years in prison without ever having a chance to  meet with her lawyer, without an opportunity to speak in her own defense, and without the right to appeal the decision. Shockingly, the  judge overseeing her case said that “her maternal instinct should have  prevailed” and “she should have protected her child.”

After several months in prison, it was discovered that the visible tumors Manuela had on her neck for which she sought medical care several times without being accurately diagnosed, was advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a  disease that likely lead to the severe obstetric emergency she suffered.

“Tragically,” continues CRR, “Manuela did not receive the appropriate treatment for her disease and died in prison in 2010, leaving behind her two young children.”

Her illness could have been caught earlier if she had received adequate  medical attention when she consulted about her tumors in years prior, and if medical officials treating her during her emergency paid any  attention to her condition, rather than focusing on reporting her to  authorities.

This case exhibits all the most draconian aspects of already-draconian anti-choice laws, many of which are in now in force in various parts of the United States. Profound and fundamental mistrust of women. Abusive laws that remove from women any choice in whether, when, with whom, and under what life or health circumstances to have a child or another child. Policing of maternity wards. The criminalization and arrest of women who have had miscarriages. Disregard for the right to life of living, breathing women.

“El  Salvador’s laws have turned emergency rooms into crime scenes,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, “forcing pregnant women to live under a dark cloud of suspicion. The  international community must come together to demand an end to this  cruel treatment of women and make a commitment to safeguard fundamental  reproductive rights.”  Like Manuela, many women in El Salvador who miscarry or experience emergency obstetric complications are charged with aggravated murder, for which they can be  imprisoned for up to 50 years, and subsequently spend decades behind bars.

Is this just? Is this what is meant by “right to life?”

The legal campaign by CRR and Colectiva de Mujeres marks the first time an international judicial body will hear the case of a woman imprisoned for seeking medical care due to  obstetric emergencies, as a result of a total abortion ban. The case  argues that El Salvador’s absolute ban on abortion violates a number of  human rights, including the right to life, right to personal integrity  and liberty, right to humane treatment, and the right to a fair trial and judicial protection.

“Salvadoran  women have been unjustly persecuted by their government for far too  long,” said Mónica Arango, CRR’s regional director for Latin America and  the Caribbean. “We are bringing Manuela’s case before an international  human rights body so women won’t suffer the same tragic fate, and El  Salvador can finally be held accountable.”

“Liberalizing  restrictive abortion laws, like El Salvador’s, is essential to saving the lives and protecting the health of millions of women across the  globe every year,” said Northup. “Study after study has shown there are no positive outcomes to banning abortion outright.”

recent study by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute  underscores what has been shown before: Restrictive abortion laws are not associated  with lower rates of abortion. According to the study, the 2008 abortion rate in Latin America—a region where abortion is highly restricted in almost all countries—was 32 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, while in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad  grounds, the rate is just 12 per 1,000.

Apart from the very real, though largely invisible tragedies of women like Manuela imprisoned for miscarriage or those who may have been arrested for thwarting a law that assigns absolutely no value to their lives, there is another critical issue here as well.

The proliferation of abortion bans and other such laws at the state level in the United States, the efforts to eliminate access to contraception for a large share of women in this country, the heavy involvement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in laws and policies governing women’s rights, the increasing degree of degrading speech about women used by politicians together underscores just how much closer we are  every day to a theocratic/right wing state like El Salvador. How far will we let things slide before the lives and health of ourselves and our daughters mean nothing?  And how long will we stand by while the “religious right” abuses women, whether they live here or in El Salvador?

Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter, @jljacobson

Source: Catholics for Choice

13/06/2011

On Saturday, June 4, members of El Salvador’s Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDD – Catholics for the Right to Decide) came to Washington, DC, to receive the Rosemary Radford Ruether award for prochoice Catholicism.

In 2010, Catholics for Choice established the Rosemary Radford Ruether Award in honor of longtime board member and feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruether. The award is presented from time to time to an organization or individual who makes a distinguished contribution to advancing prochoice Catholicism.

Since 1998, abortion has been illegal in El Salvador in all circumstances. Women who seek illegal abortions risk lengthy terms of imprisonment or death—the maternal mortality rate in El Salvador is twice the rate of Latin America as a whole. The church hierarchy has shaped legislation on reproductive rights, endangering the lives and health of Salvadorean women.

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, said, “The Board of Directors recognizes that, faced with the huge struggles for women’s equality and rights in their country, the leaders of CDD-El Salvador have shown great courage and fortitude. Their words and actions have tirelessly revealed the truth about Catholic teachings regarding abortion. Because of the alternatives they have worked so hard to present, more people will be able to understand our tradition and decide according to their conscience about matters of conscience like abortion.”

The award was presented by CFC Board Chair Susan Wysocki and Rosemary Radford Ruether to Rosa Gutiérrez Linares, General Coordinator and Founder of CDD-El Salvador, and Deysi Cheyne Romero, vice president.

Read a commemorative edition of Conscience featuring Rosemary Radford Ruether’s numerous contributions to the magazine.