Beatriz case: El Salvador's moral base requires women to be mothers before they are women

By: Sexual Diversity and Gender University Network (Fresno UCA), member of the Beatriz Platform, El Salvador.


In El Salvador every person has the right to life, to physical and moral integrity, to freedom, to security, to work, to property and possession, and to be protected in the conservation and defense of the same. These rights are expressed in Article 2 of the Constitution of the Republic; the basic instrument from which protection mechanisms are derived for every person in the country. However, it is a fact that, based on the freedom of expression and along with it, the religion, politics and ideology of each individual. Over time, they have representatively been determining factors that, in particular, stop the right of choice of women. And that is the case of Beatriz, a woman who found herself under the cohesion of society trying to save her life from the criticism of others.

 In this sense, it is common that the foundation of life of the ultra-right and conservative management is abstract and vague, weak of reflection and not at all considered with the context and the contingencies that have arisen in our country. Life is concrete, when we talk about the decriminalization of abortion, we talk about the protection and guarantee of life, to be able to provide autonomy, physical and moral that can only come from the maternal body, because without the maternal body the fetus cannot gestate or develop. And all this uncovers and reveals the legal and moral inconsistency of which these groups boast: criminalizing women who are not fit to be mothers attempts against their lives in an exaggerated way, and then, their lives are not defended, much less are they part of their discourse or considerations. 

The moral base of El Salvador requires women to be mothers before women, it determines that the greatest point of fulfillment of all is motherhood, but what happens when being a mother puts being a woman at risk? This is evidenced in the story of Beatriz, she suffered from lupus and was going through her second pregnancy when the medical team informed her that the life of the fetus was unviable outside the uterus and continuing the pregnancy put her health at risk; abortion was the option Beatriz had to protect her life, but El Salvador has taken away this reproductive right from all women and pregnant women and is responsible for the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment Beatriz faced.

It does not require such a critical and profound reflection to highlight the violence and conditions under which these women find themselves, and the enormous consequences that criminalization and condemnation have for them, making their subsistence even more difficult; and that of all the people around them, considering that many of them head the family structure. However, for the Human Rights Committee, States should not regulate pregnancy or abortion in a manner contrary to their duty to ensure that women do not have to resort to unsafe abortions, e.g., they should not apply criminal penalties to women who undergo abortion or to the doctors who assist them in doing so, where such measures are expected to result in a significant increase in unsafe abortions, they should remove existing barriers to access to safe and legal abortion, as well as protect women's lives from physical or mental health risks associated with unsafe abortions. 

Although States may adopt measures aimed at regulating the termination of pregnancy, such measures must not result in the violation of the pregnant woman's right to life, as well as in those situations in which the continuation of the pregnancy would cause the woman severe pain or suffering, especially in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or the pregnancy is not viable. In short, to support Beatriz's case is to fight for the recognition of reproductive rights, against the domination of the patriarchal system that continues to decide over bodies and for abortion and desired maternity to be decisions that all women and pregnant women can make. 

It is the reality of Salvadoran women that the existence of social inequalities and the various conditions of discrimination against a person are social determinants of the effective enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health. Likewise, the fact that an action or prohibition is legal under domestic law does not imply the absence of any violation of the relevant international treaty, i.e. a legal or constitutional prohibition cannot be used as an excuse to fail to comply with the international obligations arising therefrom; the State's refusal to terminate the pregnancy in a case in which the fetus was incompatible with life "subjected the author to situations of intense physical and psychological suffering". Clearly, the situation of knowing that the pregnancy was not viable, as well as "the shame and stigma associated with the criminalization of abortion of a fetus affected by an ailment incompatible with life" generated "physical and mental anguish" in Beatriz. 

It seems that "conservative and fundamentalist ideas" continue to dominate the spaces where public policies on sexual and reproductive health are elaborated, since they continue to be scarce and of low quality. It is clear that the absolute decriminalization of abortion would facilitate and guarantee the sexual and reproductive rights of Salvadoran women, both in terms of access to information on reproductive health, as well as quality maternal health care. Therefore, legal restrictions that limit women's ability to have an abortion should not, among other things, endanger their lives or expose them to physical or psychological pain or suffering.

Scroll to Top