beatriz and savita are not exceptions: abortion bans kill

You may have heard of the latest anti-woman denail of basic human rights to make international news. A few months back there was Savita Halappanavar, who died in Ireland when she was denied a life-saving, medically necessary abortion. Now there is a woman known as "Beatriz" (not her real name) in El Salvador.

Beatriz has lupus, kidney disease, and severe hypertension. She is 22 years old, and she is, or was, pregnant. The fetus she carries is anencephalic (missing most of its brain) and cannot survive outside the womb. Eleven doctors have testified that Beatriz is likely to die if she is forced to continue the pregnancy.

Yet the laws of El Salvador do not permit Beatriz to terminate her pregnancy.

Beatriz took her plight to court.

The Supreme Court of El Salvador apparently so no urgency in this situation, and were slow in rendering a decision. Finally, on May 29, they voted to deny her abortion.

The following day, possibly in response to international outcry, El Salvador's Minister of Health allowed doctors to perform a cesarean section to terminate the pregnancy.

Think of your own life. Your own choices. Imagine judges and government officials having this kind of control over your body and your very life.

Imagine your life - legally and socially - is of no more value than that of a fetus with zero chance of survival.

Then imagine it's not even unusual.

And the final irony? In countries like El Salvador with total bans on abortions, the abortion rate is double, triple, or quadruple that in countries with more humane, ethical, and rationale abortion laws. The rate of abortion in Canada - where there is no abortion law - is among the lowest in the world. (All statistics from the World Health Organization and/or the Guttmacher Institute.)

But for the anti-choice fanatics, these numbers are meaningless, because limiting or ending abortion is nothing but a smokescreen. Their stated objective is saving the lives of future babies. But their real goal is limiting the rights and life choices of women. Keeping women slaves.

* * * *

Abortion in Latin America, via BBC, via WHO or Guttmacher:

* Abortion is completely banned in seven countries in Latin America: El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras, Haiti, Suriname.

* Only Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay allow abortions beyond cases of rape, incest or threats to a woman's health.

* In 2012, Uruguay's congress voted narrowly to legalise abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

* In Mexico, only Mexico City has legalised abortion, during the first 12 weeks.

* Brazil's senate is currently debating the legalisation of terminations during the first 12 weeks.

* The estimated annual number of abortions in Latin America increased slightly between 2003 and 2008, from 4.1 million to 4.4 million, but the rate per 1,000 women remained steady.

* 95 percent of abortions in Latin America from 1995-2008 were considered to be unsafe.

* Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates, the WHO says. For example, the 2008 abortion rate was 32 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Latin America. In Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds, the abortion rate was 12 per 1,000.

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