For the first time in its history, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is examining the right to abortion this week with the case of a young woman prevented from ending a high-risk pregnancy in El Salvador.
The Central American country is in the dock at the Inter-American Court, based in Costa Rica, for alleged human rights violations and "
" for forcing a woman, identified as "
", to wear a non-viable fetus despite health risks.
Died during childbirth
El Salvador has formally banned abortion since 1998 under penalty of imprisonment of up to 8 years.
Courts across the country often find women who have abortions guilty of aggravated homicide and hand down sentences of up to 50 years in prison.
The fact that the Court has agreed to hear this case clearly indicates that the denial of any health service, including controversial ones such as abortion, constitutes a violation of human rights," said Maria Antonieta Alcalde, of
the reproductive rights NGO Ipas, which is among the plaintiffs.
Beatriz, who died in a road accident in 2017, suffered from an autoimmune disease when she became pregnant for the second time in 2013, at the age of 20, after a complicated first delivery.
The fetus was found to be non-viable due to a severe birth defect and furthermore, according to court documents, Beatriz was told that she risked death if she carried the pregnancy to term.
The young woman then turned to justice in order to be authorized to have an abortion, but her request was rejected by the Constitutional Court.
She went into premature labor, underwent a caesarean section and the fetus died five hours after delivery.
Form of torture
Gisela de Leon, of the Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil), a human rights NGO which is also among the plaintiffs, believes that the Salvadoran State has "violated its right to life and
" by forcing him to carry the fetus for 81 days, knowing that he could not live.
The suffering to which she was subjected, knowing that her right to life was threatened, constitutes a form of torture
," she said.
The family of the young woman, originally from La Noria Tierra Blanca, about 100 km southeast of the capital San Salvador, decided to take the case to court after her death so that "no other woman
lives what she went through
,” according to her brother Humberto, 30, who requested anonymity to preserve that of his sister.
In Latin America, abortion is legal in Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay and some states in Mexico.
In other countries, such as Chile, it is permitted in certain circumstances such as rape or health risks to the mother or in cases of fetal malformation, while total bans apply in El Salvador but also in Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The Inter-American Court will hear Wednesday and Thursday the testimony of relatives of Beatriz, as well as doctors who followed her during her pregnancy.
Judgment is expected in about six months.
Rallies are expected in San José, as well as in San Salvador, the capital of the small Central American country.