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Salvadoran Government Ordered to Provide Beatriz Access to Life-Saving Care

Kathy Bougher

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the highest human rights court in the Americas, handed down Thursday a decision ordering the government of El Salvador to provide Beatriz access to health care that could save her life.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica, the highest human rights court in the Americas, handed down Thursday a decision ordering the government of El Salvador to provide Beatriz with life-saving care. It ordered the state to provide the measures necessary to protect her life, health, and well-being, as well as refrain from interfering with the actions the doctors consider appropriate.

Beatriz, a 22-year-old woman who suffers from several life-threatening health problems, is 25 weeks pregnant with an anencephalic fetus, meaning it is missing part of its brain and will likely die at birth or shortly thereafter.  Her doctors recommended she receive an abortion, and she requested one on April 11. However, abortion is illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador.

The spokesperson for the Inter-American Court, Paola Ugaz, explained that the case is not going through formal channels; rather, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the judges to issues an immediate order to the Salvadoran government to avoid irreparable harm to Beatriz. This is the first case on abortion that the court has considered. The government has until June 7 to present a first report to the court on its compliance with the measures ordered.

The Salvadoran Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber handed down a ruling on May 29 which prohibited the therapeutic abortion that Beatriz requested in April. In spite of that decision, the Inter-American Court ruled that the Salvadoran government is obligated to guarantee that “the medical team providing treatment receives the appropriate protection needed in order to fully exercise their function in accordance with the decisions that the medical team adopts based on medical science.”

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Morena Herrera, president of the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, which has supported Beatriz, said, “We hope that the Salvadoran government complies immediately with this resolution from the Inter-American Court to proceed with the termination of Beatriz’s pregnancy in a manner that allows her to continue her life fully and safely.”

According to the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the court’s decisions carry a mandatory requirement for governmental compliance since El Salvador is a member state of the Organization of American States and signed the American Convention on Human Rights, which includes acceptance of the court’s competency.

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