I jest, obviously. Abortion is one of those topics that is usually best left off the table, and yet it’s one of the subjects that far-right fringe lunatics blast away on. You’ve seen it. You’re on a message board or on Facebook, and you see a thread about a political issue, likely very unrelated to abortion. Then into the mix saunters an ultra-conservative who says or writes something like this:
“Oh sure, you all don’t care about the four Americans who died in Ben Gozzi. Of course you don’t. Because you also don’t care about the thousands of innocent babies murdered every year either, huh?”
First you think to yourself, “Where in the fuck is there infanticide going down on such a grand scale in the world?” Then you realize they’re talking about abortion. Because you know, every aborted pregnancy is murder to them. No matter how many times you point to the statistics that show how most pregnancies are terminated very early on, around the same time that a third of pregnancies miscarry anyway. They will call you a baby killer and tell you that you hate life itself. Then they’ll pine for the “good ol’ days” when abortion was illegal in this country.
Jump cut to El Salvador, 2013.
If anti-abortion extremists want to get a taste of what America would be like if they got their way and suddenly abortion was illegal in the U.S. again, all they have to do is move to El Salvador. That country is at the center of an abortion story that is both heartbreaking and an urgent call to everyone who can at least call upon some semblance of human compassion to keep abortion safe and legal in this country.
“Beatriz,” a woman who is going by an alias so as to protect herself and her family, is a resident of El Salvador. She is a 22-year-old woman with advanced lupus and kidney disease. She’s also pregnant and already has a one-year-old. To complicate matters even further, the fetus in question has a disorder that will prevent its brain from ever fully developing. Beatriz’ doctors know that this pregnancy is extremely dangerous for both the fetus and Beatriz herself and have petitioned the government to allow for an abortion. Why do doctors have to ask their government for permission to save Beatriz’ life? Because El Salvador has a ban on abortion in their country which punishes both the woman and the doctor who performs it, that’s why.
So in El Salvador you have Paul Ryan’s wet dream — a country that uses theocratic ideologies to suppress the sexual freedoms of their women-folk. The Supreme Court in El Salvador took over the case after the country’s Health Minister wrote a letter to them, imploring the justices to make the right decision on behalf of Beatriz’ right to life. Instead, the Supreme Court upheld the barbaric ban and now Beatriz awaits death; a death that will orphan her one-year-old baby.
Sadly, Beatriz’ case is not an isolated one. El Salvadorian prisons house women who either had abortions performed, or sought them out. Imagine a society where a rape victim can be thrown in jail for seeking to end the pregnancy that was only brought about by her rape. That’s the country that El Salvador is, and that is the country that people like Congressman Ryan want to turn the United States into.
Americans need to ask themselves whether their feelings on abortion are worth going backwards. The sad truth is that the U.S. isn’t that far removed from the days when women were treated the same way they’re treated in El Salvador. Until Roe vs. Wade, Suzie Q. American had as much control over her uterus as Beatriz has now. Maybe our jails were never full of women who got or sought abortions, but we have no idea how many women and girls died in “back-alley” abortion procedures, do we? We don’t know how many women were in similar circumstances as Beatriz, stuck with a life-threatening pregnancy and no option to end it discretely and humanely.
For all the justified anger and furor over Kermit Gosnell there is, there are far, far more cases like Beatriz’ in the world. That doesn’t make Gosnell’s crimes less disgusting, but the fact remains that Americans cannot afford to become El Salvador again. Beatriz is a warning to all of us in this country who may not go gallivanting around town offering abortions to every woman we see, but who know how critical it is for the health and well-being of our female population to have that option available to them that we cannot stop fighting the anti-abortion extremists in every state legislature that’s trying to subvert Roe. Besides, if conservatives were really interested in ending abortion once and for all, they’d grow up and let us discuss sex with our kids in school, and they’d let us give free and easy access to contraceptives to any and everybody who wants them.
And we all know Hell will freeze over before that ever happens.