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Salvadoran doctors perform caesarean on Beatriz to save her life

Abortion row baby girl dies five hours after she was delivered

María R. Sahuquillo
A demonstration in Mexico City in support of Beatriz.
A demonstration in Mexico City in support of Beatriz.HENRY ROMERO (REUTERS)

Following months of litigation and an international outcry against the government of El Salvador, physicians on Monday performed a caesareansection to save the life of a 22-year-old woman who had been denied an abortion because it is illegal in the Central American nation.

The woman, identified only as Beatriz, was reported to be in serious condition as she recovered in an intensive care unit at a San Salvador hospital after the government of President Mauricio Funes granted her special permission to interrupt her pregnancy. Doctors had said that Beatriz faced death if the pregnancy had continued its term because she suffers from lupus and a kidney disorder.

The baby girl, delivered as Beatriz entered her 27th week of pregnancy, had severe birth defects, including a brain malformation, and only lived for about five hours, an NGO spokeswoman said.

“I feel very tired. My hair is falling out a lot and I am having trouble breathing,” the woman said before she entered surgery.

“We are going through a very bad time” said Delmy Cortés, the mother of the young woman. “They let this go too long, and we were afraid she was suffering.”

In El Salvador, abortion is illegal even in emergency situations. International organizations, including the Inter-American Court for Human Rights in San Jose, pressured the Funes government to approve the procedure. Last week, El Salvador’s Constitutional Court ruled against Beatriz, igniting offers from NGOs around the world to bring her to another country where she could undergo the procedure. The Deciding Gives Us Freedom platform, which groups about 270 organizations across Spain, petitioned the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last week to grant her asylum.

I feel very tired. My hair is falling out and I am having trouble breathing”

Beatriz had been living apart from her family and 14-month old son for some time. She comes from a simple family and had hardly ever left Jiquilisco, a town in the center of El Salvador.

When doctors warned her that her life was in danger because of her pregnancy, she asked the Salvadoran Health Ministry in April for special permission to undergo an abortion. Her lawyer based her arguments on the premise that it is the Salvadoran government’s duty to protect the lives of its citizens.

The case captured international headlines.

Salvadoran Health Minister María Isabel Rodríguez, who also came under fire from anti-abortionist groups for supporting Beatriz and insisting doctors do all they can to guarantee that she did not die even if it meant performing an abortion, said during a news conference that “Beatriz has become a world symbol.”

“This case is a lesson. The medical analyses and tests had already determined this. It was calculated and determined that there were no chances of the child surviving,” she said.

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