An Important Warning From El Salvador To Anti-Abortion Extremists

beatrizOh, abortion. Could there be a more easy-going, ‘you can have it at your local sports bar and no one will get upset,’ kind of topic in American politics?

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.

James Schlarmann

James is in his thirties and gets really passionately angry about politics. Sometimes that anger foments into diatribes, and sometimes those diatribes are comical. Other times, they are not. James is the founding contributor and editor-in-chief of The Political Garbage Chute, a left-leaning satire and commentary site, which can be found on Facebook as well.

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  • cwmat

    In Pennsylvania, sex is “discussed with our kids in school” when they are 9 years old in our public school system. It pretty much continues, via the “guidance” program and actual classroom instruction, through high school. I’m not seeing that this has ended unwanted pregnancies in PA. Free contraception is given out in clinics and to children all over this nation. Still not seeing that this has reduced teen or unwanted pregnancies.

    Not all pro-life individuals base their views on what you call “thoeocratic” desires. Philosophically, one considers when it is necessary to infringe on the rights of one individual to prevent harm to another individual and to what extent that infringement is to be allowed. Scientifically, one considers that a fetus meets the biological definition of life and contains the DNA structure of a human which is different from the human woman in whose body it is growing. From the perspective of medical science, “viability” varies from child to child and is too inconsistent to be enforceable as a legal demarcation for when the human life inside the other human acquires its own right to life, liberty and happiness. Only when one applies the disciplines of science, philosophy, and law to the topic can one be said to have made a rational decision about one’s views on this issue.

    Philosophically, the case of Beatriz is unclear. It is only when you consider it from the scientific perspective of the predicted medical outcomes that it becomes rational to sacrifice one life for the potential to save another, especially when that one is still necessary for the proper development of a third life. It seems to me that most laws in the United States will always allow for that option – “to save the life of the mother” – precisely because we are NOT a theocracy.

    That we allow one life to be extinguished because it inconveniences another living being is, however, irrational. Philosophically, the argument for exchanging a life for a life can be made but it is more difficult to argue that a life should be taken to ensure that another life enjoys higher social standing. From a philosophical perspective, this would not differ appreciably from a slave owner being able to kill an injured slave because it was inconvenient to keep feeding a creature that could not contribute to the efficient functioning of the farm.

    More rational, in the case of abortion, would be to create social structures that minimize that inconvenience and eliminate social stigmas associated with preserving the life of the weakest and most helpless human beings. As President Obama has said, we should hope to make abortion rare. I simply don’t see us moving in that direction socially. All the money seems to be spent on “sex education” and free contraception and expanding access to abortions (and the lobbying that those issues require) rather than dealing in a non-violent way with the consequences of the frequent failure of those “solutions”.

    Surely there must be a middle ground between “no abortion for any reason” (as the law in El Salvador stipulates) and “abortion any time for any reason” (as Roe v. Wade proclaimed)?

    • Ian

      Oh where to start? Other than to say this is a very thinly vieled classic religious based argument of “no, never, ever, no way”. Which is a fine opinion. Just not one that most people hold.

      But this is at least an interesting intertwining of “using the word science”, and completely missing the point of a scientific approach. There is little question about when a fetus is viable. It doesn’t vary, as you imply, so greatly that it could any where from day 0 to birth. From a philosophical point of view (*not* a religious point of view), this is a worthwhile discussion. But even mechanically it’s hard to say a deformed child is worth more to society than a living mother. In fact, it’s pretty easy (though possibly pretty mean) to say it is not.

      But this whole thing does boil down to a simple question, “is the life of a mother worth more than the life of an unborn child”, especially when that child is several deformed, brain dead, or not even a life yet (which is really the only debate in my opinion). If your answer is “the mother should give birth and die, so that the child can live (if it lives at all anyway)”, then you aren’t considering human life, you are more concerned with… Well, I don’t really know what your concern is then.

    • I’m not sure where you’re getting
      your information on the decline (or not) of teen pregnancies, but I
      just pulled this off of the CDC website.

      ***

      Teen Pregnancy

      The Importance of Prevention

      In 2011, a total of 329,797 babies were born to women aged 15–19
      years,
      for a live birth rate of 31.3 per 1,000 women in this age group.1This
      is a record low for U.S. teens in this age group, and a drop of 8% from
      2010. Birth rates fell 11% for women aged 15–17 years, and 7% for women
      aged 18–19 years.

      While reasons for the declines are not clear, teens seem to be less
      sexually active, and more of those who are sexually active seem to be
      using birth control than in previous years.

      ***

      You can check this out at the CDC’s website. This page won’t let me post the link.

      Your approach to this argument seems very clinical, when, in fact,
      these choices are so much more complex in the real world. Please
      consider these statistics, also from the CDC website:

      ***

      In 2009, 784,507 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from
      48 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2009 was 15.1 abortions per
      1,000 women aged 15–44 years and the abortion ratio was 227 abortions
      per 1,000 live births.

      Compared with 2008, the total number and rate of
      reported abortions for 2009 decreased 5% and the abortion ratio
      decreased 2%. The change from 2008 to 2009 represented the largest
      single year decrease in the total number and rate of reported abortions
      for the entire period from 2000 to 2009. Additionally, from 2000 to
      2009
      the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 6%, 7%,
      and 8%, respectively, to the lowest levels for this entire period.

      Women in their twenties accounted for the majority of
      abortions in 2009 and throughout the period of analysis. The majority of
      abortions in 2009 took place early in gestation: 91.7% of abortions
      were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation, and of the abortions performed
      at ≤13 weeks’ gestation, 69.8% were performed at ≤ 8
      weeks’ gestation. In 2009, 16.5% of all abortions were medical
      abortions. Source: MMWR 2012;61(No. 8).
      ***

      Please note that 91.7% of abortions were performed at <13 weeks
      and 69.8% of those were performed at < 8 weeks. No credible doctor or
      scientist would classify those fetuses as "viable".

      Having said all of that, I graduated from high school in the decade
      before Roe v. Wade and I saw several of my desperate classmates suffer
      everything from permanent infertility to death from back-alley and
      self-inflicted illegal abortions. Returning to that is simply not an
      option. No one is pro-abortion. There is pro-choice and anti-choice. No
      one has the right to make that choice for another. It isn't an easy
      choice or a pleasant one and the results, either way, last for a
      lifetime.

  • Dr Betty Schueler

    The ban on abortions forced me, at age 24, to have my tubes tied. I had two biological children and that was all the children I thought the world needed since there were so many children needing adoption and fostering. I have never regretted the decision. About a decade later, I was raped by a medical student. It took years for my body to stop fearing being alone with most men. I can’t even imagine having to raise a child conceived from rape. While I would never blame the child I would constantly be reminded of what happened during the most terrifying moments of my life.