A peek into a pro-life paradise

I’m sure many Feministe readers have been closely following the story of Beatriz, a young Salvadoran mother with lupus who was pregnant with an anencephalic fetus. The pregnancy, which was doomed because the fetus had only a brainstem but no brain, was killing her. Her kidneys were shutting down, and the longer they were under stress, the higher the likelihood that if she didn’t die, she would need to be on dialysis for the rest of her life — a major hardship and almost definitely a life-shortener for a woman living in rural El Salvador with very limited access to health care. Doctors said Beatriz needed an abortion, but El Salvador has some of the strictest pro-life laws in the world, and their courts refused her the procedure under the logic that her life wasn’t imminently threatened (apparently since she would die in a few days or weeks, not minutes) and that it’s never ok to prioritize a woman’s life over a fetus’s life. Doctors in El Salvador got around the law by waiting until the 26th week of pregnancy and then performing a Cesarean section — a procedure everyone knew would result in the death of the fetus (which it did) but which can be construed as a “birth” instead of an abortion, even though the end result is the same. Of course, a C-section is significantly more dangerous than an abortion (and especially more dangerous than an earlier abortion, which Beatriz could have had two months ago if she didn’t live in a “pro-life” nation). C-sections are invasive surgical procedures, which are significantly more complicated than early abortions, and pose much higher risks of infection or complication, especially when performed on someone whose health is already compromised by lupus and potential organ failure. They take longer to recover from, and they’re more expensive. Beatriz, thankfully, seems to be doing fine. But she was still legally compelled to undergo a more dangerous, invasive and complicated procedure — and forced to have her body suffer through declining health — so that ideologues could feel better about the intent of a more dangerous procedure that everyone knew would have the exact same outcome as an earlier, safer one.

El Salvador is a model of pro-life laws. But it’s not the only place where we can see pro-lifers in action:

Then there are the women who aren’t physically killed or injured, but who are harassed, humiliated and made to feel like criminals simply for seeking out a medical procedure – like the 14-year-old Polish rape victim who not only had to petition a special prosecutor for the privilege to terminate her pregnancy, but was then denied an abortion at a Catholic hospital in her deeply religious country, harassed by pro-lifers, taken to the police station for questioning and removed from her mother and placed in juvenile care. As if that isn’t traumatising enough to a young teenager pregnant after rape, the hospital issued a press release bragging about its refusal to serve her.

Pro-lifers are proud of themselves for all of this. “Once again, Salvadorans have given an example to the entire world that we defend the right to life of all human beings however small, poor, vulnerable or defenceless,” said Julia Regina de Cardenal, director of the foundation Yes to Life, about Beatriz’s case in El Salvador. Yes, allowing a young mother to slowly die in the hospital because the life of a non-viable fetus is more important than hers is quite an example.

Even American pro-lifers got in on the act. Lila Rose, president of the anti-abortion group Live Action, which makes intentionally misleading videos about abortion clinics to further its ideological aims, told the Huffington Post that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life. Of course, doctors around the world would disagree – remind me where Rose studied medicine and obstetrics again? – but facts and evidence are not as true as Rose’s conviction.

“We can do better than pitting the life of a mother against her child,” she said. “Abortions are never medically necessary. Some doctors prescribe abortion as if it’s a treatment for a disease or a problem, but that’s not a solution a truly compassionate and just society should turn to.

“I don’t know what the doctors are advising her, but doctors have certainly been wrong,” Rose said.

Doctors have indeed been wrong in the past. But ask yourself who you want making medical decisions for you: You and your doctor, or Lila Rose?


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Discrimination, Feminism, Health, Law, Politics, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A peek into a pro-life paradise

  1. Anoia says:

    There is an older, longer article on the practices in San Salvador here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/09/magazine/09abortion.html

  2. Emily says:

    “But she was still legally compelled to undergo a more dangerous, invasive and complicated procedure — and forced to have her body suffer through declining health — so that ideologues could feel better about the intent of a more dangerous procedure that everyone knew would have the exact same outcome as an earlier, safer one.”

    Ugh! Yes, this. Making women suffer is not health care. It’s sadism.

    The number of Catholic hospitals in America (who will also be guided by the same ideology) scares me.

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  4. Calioak says:

    Does freedom of religion include the right to main, sterilize, and kill other people? If not the Catholic hospitals are going to run out of rope at some point.

    Catholic Health Care West had to convert to dignity health and appoint non-Catholics to lead their board after the incident in Arizona. Personally as person if childbearing age with female reproductive equipment I’m not going to that hospital no matter what.

  5. Calioak says:

    Does freedom of religion include the right to main, sterilize, and kill other people? If not the Catholic hospitals are going to run out of rope at some point.

    Catholic Health Care West had to convert to dignity health and appoint non-Catholics to lead their board after the incident in Arizona. Personally as person if childbearing age with female reproductive equipment I’m not going to a catholic hospital if I have any choice.

    • Emily says:

      Personally as person if childbearing age with female reproductive equipment I’m not going to a catholic hospital if I have any choice.

      As a currently pregnant female, me neither!!!! I even carry a card in my wallet near my ID that says if I am injured, do not take me to a Catholic hospital. In case I’m found unconscious or something.

  6. Kristen from MA says:

    Beatriz had what I think of as a ‘Santorum abortion.’ But it shouldn’t have come to that.

    I wish her a speedy recovery.

  7. I’m glad she’s alive, at least. I was getting pretty worried for a bit.

    I wish her all health and happiness with her husband and toddler, and a pox on all who believe as the people who hurt her do.

  8. Odin says:

    I’m so relieved that Beatriz is all right, though it’s effing inhumane that they forced her to wait this long and undergo a c-section.

    I also think it’s inhumane to _require_ fetuses with fatal deformities to be born so they can die “naturally”. I know anacephilic fetuses can’t really suffer since they don’t have enough of a brain to process pain or fear, so in this case it doesn’t matter too much… but abortion bans like El Salvador’s mean there will be babies born with deformities incompatible with life who _will_ be able to suffer, and that’s all they’ll ever experience.

    It’s one thing if the parent(s) decide to carry to term or even induce early labor because that’s what they feel is best for their whole family (for moral reasons, or just getting emotional closure), but for the state to mandate infants be born to make sure they know only a brief life of suffering is dead wrong. Doubly so when it is in the name of “life”.

    Are there any US-based anti-choice groups that _supported_ Beatriz’s case for an abortion, rather than lying about her medical situation to claim she wasn’t at risk and her fetus had a chance at long-term survival? Even just a fringe vegan pacifist group that opposes abortion as part of their pacifist and vegan philosophy?

    • Emily says:

      but for the state to mandate infants be born to make sure they know only a brief life of suffering is dead wrong.

      I agree. And I know there is a world of difference between these situations, but it does kind of remind me, in a way, of what Kermit Gosnell did. In the sense of giving birth and creating life just for the sake of it dying. Perhaps someone smarter than me can comment on any similarities.

  9. Jerry says:

    Some people believe that suffering is noble. Not when it’s happening to them, of course.

    • Rachel Tyrel says:

      This.

      The suffering of the Passion of Jesus Christ is used by some Catholics as a model of pennance, and is used as an example that all humans should embrace suffering on the chance that by suffering, they will be able to better understand the suffering of Jesus and will thereby find a sort of spiritual enlightment.

      This is one of the reasons that I never wish to go to a Catholic hospital ever again. Without fail, it seemed that the attitudes of the supposed “professionals” there was that I would not be so ill had I not been so sinful. Needless to say, I spent much of my time there with an eyebrow arched askance, as if to inquire, “You’re supposed to be a scientist. Do you believe in spontaneous generation, too? What is this, the Inquisition?”

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